GAA clubmates join effort to help bring Ciaran home

by Sylvia Pownall
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MORE than 30 volunteers from Oldtown have travelled to Mayo to help in the search for missing coastguard
Ciaran Smith.
The dad-of-three was on board the Rescue 116 helicopter which was lost off the Mayo coast last week, along with fellow winchman Paul Ormsby and co-pilot Mark Duffy.
The aircraft’s hero pilot, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was rescued, but died shortly after being taken from the water. She was buried on Saturday amid emotional scenes.
Ciaran, 38, who is originally from Kinsealy, is described as a dedicated family man and a sports fanatic.
He was heavily involved with his local Wild Geese GAA Club, which rounded up a 30-strong group of volunteers for shoreline searches.
Earlier this week, his wife, Martina, and his three young children clutched teddy bears and photos of him as they waited anxiously on Blacksod pier for news of their beloved dad.
A candlelight vigil was held for Ciaran and his fellow crewmen on Saturday in Oldtown Church.
Skerries Coastguard members also paid an emotional tribute to him as they took part in the local St Patrick’s Day Parade.
A close family friend, who did not want to be named, said: “Ciaran is an absolute gentleman. He is very involved in his local community and very well thought of.”
A spokesperson for Wild Geese GAA said club members were “hoping and praying” for his return, adding: “When Ciaran’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.”
Ciaran was also a keen cyclist and came sixth in a gruelling seven-day 2,200km charity race around Ireland in 2015, raising €8,203 for children’s cancer charity, Aoibheann’s Pink Tie.
Race Around Ireland founder Alan Heary paid tribute to his cycling friend, while The Irish Fairy Door Company, which sponsored him for the event, described him as their “hero” and said they were “heartbroken” to learn he was missing at sea.
An experienced winchman and former member of the Air Corps, Ciaran 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.
He passed out as an electrician at the Army Apprentice School in 1997, and former army colleague Dave Lenihan posted a tribute on Facebook.
He wrote: “Missing in the line of duty. Uniformed public service is not a job – it’s a vocation.”
Another army pal, Neil Fogarty, wrote: “It’s been a tough week coming to terms with the loss of my friend Ciaran Smith.
“Please God the efforts of all the rescue services will bring Ciaran and his crew mates back to their families so that they can be laid to rest properly.
“RIP brother, you will always be in our thoughts.”
Early yesterday, search teams deployed an underwater robot as up to 200 people joined the miss-ing men’s families and friends for a candlelight vigil near Blacksod in a show of solidarity.
On Monday night, Air Accident Investigation Unit chief inspector Jurgen Whyte said the probe had “not yet definitively identified the initial point of impact”.
Late last week, some wreckage was found close to the lighthouse on Blackrock – the last known location of the helicopter before it lost communication early on March 14 on an approach to refuel at Blacksod Bay during the early stages of support for a medical evacuation.

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