Profiles: The lives of the four crew members of Rescue 116

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

The late Captain Dara Fitzpatrick had a high-profile role as a full-time member Coast Guard.

A pilot with some 25 years’ experience, she had participated in television programmes and campaigns about her helicopter crew’s work.

The 45-year-old mother of one had also spoken of the significant risks involved in the work of Coast Guard members.

“My responsibility as captain is to get them all back in one piece, everything is based on trust,” she said in an interview recorded for the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

At the time of the interview in 2007, Capt Fitzpatrick said she had 15 years’ experience as a pilot, but that her job still had the potential to give her a ‘kick in the ass’.

“You’ll go along and you’ll do loads of really good jobs and then, one time, you’ll get a kick in the ass and it kind of wakes you up, to say ‘you can’t relax’,” she said.

“The thing that I find the hardest is everybody thinks it isn’t going to happen to them and, again, you’re picking somebody up out of the water.”

Capt Fitzpatrick is survived by her three-year-old son, her parents, three sisters, and one brother.

Mark Duffy

A father-of-two, Mark Duffy joined the Coast Guard having trained in the US where he worked with the Californian Coast Guard for seven years.

Mr Duffy lived in Blackrock, a seaside village outside Dundalk Co Louth, with his wife Hermione and two children.

The local Tidy Towns announced that their annual St Patrick’s Day parade would not go ahead and that the village would not be decorated for the occasion as a mark of respect for Mr Duffy.

“The thoughts of the entire community in Blackrock are with Hermione, her two children, and Mark and Hermione's families at this sad, sad time,” the Tidy Towns group said.

“Mark was a great supporter of Blackrock Tidy Towns and many other community groups in the village, and he piloted the Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 at the Raft Race display last year.”

Prior to joining the Coast Guard, Mr Duffy worked as a helicopter pilot for businessman Declan Ganley, who paid tribute to Mr Duffy on Twitter.

“I was so proud when Mark told me he wanted to leave flying for me to go to the #IrishCoastGuard. A hero to all of us,” Mr Ganley tweeted.

He further described him as a ‘brilliant pilot’ and ‘an absolute pro’.

Ciarán Smith

A keen cyclist, winchman Ciarán Smith raised thousands of euro for charities by undertaking a gruelling race around Ireland on three separate occasions.

Last year the father-of-three presented Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, a charity that helps the families of children with cancer, with a cheque for the €8,203 that he had raised following his most recent 2200km race around the country.

An experienced winchman and former member of the Air Corps, Mr Smith received a Marine Bronze Medal for Meritorious Service for the role he played in an Air Corps operation that resulted in the rescue of a man off the coast of Antrim in 2003.

Mr Smith is a member of the Wild Geese GAA Club, which yesterday said was ‘hoping and praying’ for his return.

“When Ciarán’s name was on a Wild Geese team sheet we were always a better, stronger and more confident team. Our thoughts are with his family at this time,” the club said.

The Irish Fairy Door Company, which was Mr Smith’s sponsor for the most recent cycle, said they were heartbroken and described him as their ‘hero’.

“He is a dear friend of us all. Our hearts are with Martina and family tonight,” it posted on Facebook.

Paul Ormsby

A native of Ballyfermot, Co Dublin, winchman Paul Ormsby was an experienced member of the Coast Guard who once appeared on RTÉ’s ‘Capital D’ programme to gave an insight into his role in a rescue mission.

“It doesn’t matter to me how the person has gotten into trouble,” Mr Ormsby told the show.

“Whether they’ve self-inflicted it or they’ve just fallen off a cliff, I just go out and rescue everybody to the best of my ability.”

“No matter who they are, or no matter what they’ve done, it makes no difference to me. I’ll rescue anyone between Hitler and the Pope.”

 

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