HUNDREDS gathered to honour the memory of missing coast guard Paul Ormsby and his Rescue 116 colleagues in his home town of Ballyfermot on Saturday.
Parish priest Fr Joe McDonald said they were “joined in heartache and sorrow” for the ceremony at St Matthew’s Church.
He said: “The loss of someone we love levels us out completely. It is our prayer that Paul is safe, as he gave his life repeatedly stepping into danger so that others could be safe.”
And he said although they had no “mortal remains to bury”, his heartbroken family – including sister Angela and brothers Patrick and John – should “remain hopeful”, adding: “Winds sated, waters calm, he is now safe in the arms of Jesus.”
Paul (inset) was one of a crew of four who perished when their coast guard helicopter crashed off the Mayo coast in the early hours of March 14.
While the bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered in the days and weeks following the tragedy, those of winchmen Paul, 53, and dad-of-three Ciaran Smith, from Oldtown in Co Dublin, have never been recovered.
During Saturday’s mass gifts symbolising his life were brought to the altar including his flight suit and helmet, photographs, walking boots, awards and an Irish flag.
Coast guard colleague Captain Ed Shivnan told the congregation how Paul “always made us smile” with his quick wit and how he “was never too busy” to share his 30 years of experience with others.
Paul once told an RTE interviewer he would rescue anyone in need of his help regardless of the circumstances “no matter who they are, from Hitler to the Pope”.
Capt Shivnen explained how a pilot over a ship’s deck is only as good as the winch operator voicing commands from below, adding that Paul’s voice was “calming in the sometimes harsh environments we operate in”.
He recalled a doctor’s description of a winchman rescuing a casualty as the “purest form of humanity” he had ever witnessed.
He added: “To Paul, this purest form of humanity was his job, his actions have directly helped and saved hundreds of people over his years using his professionalism, skill and care at both ends of the wire … in all weather conditions.”
After the service, a Rescue 116 Sikorsky S-92 chopper hovered over the church and dropped its nose – to applause – in a poignant salute by the crew to their fallen colleague.
The memorial mass coincides with a push for a local plaza to be named after hero Ormsby and his three colleagues.
Paul, who cared for his mother Kitty until her death four years ago, was born and raised on Oranmore Road in Ballyfermot, and locals now want a plaque to be erected on the green near his home.
Tributes were also paid to the crew of Rescue 116 at a charity cycle at Dublin Airport, also on Saturday.