Family and friends honour R116’s Ciaran

by Sylvia Pownall

A close pal of lost Rescue 116 Coast Guard Ciaran Smith has told how his family and friends are keeping his legacy alive.

Calling themselves Team Invictus, inspired by Ciaran’s favourite poem, a group of cyclists have just completed the gruelling Race Around Ireland in his name.

The team and crew included Ciaran’s wife Martina, took part in the non-stop cycle race which attracts the hardiest competitors from around the globe.

R116 pilot Sid Lawrence, who worked with Ciaran, was one of those who saddled up for the challenge and says he took inspiration from his long-time pal ‘Smithy’.

He told Dublin Gazette: “You can do it as a team or a solo, which is serious stuff. Ciaran competed in 2013 and 2014, and successfully completed the full 2,200km circuit solo in 2015.

“I worked with him for the best part of 14 years. He was a dear, dear friend of mine and I couldn’t think of a better tribute to my friend than to cycle around Ireland.”

Ciaran’s three brothers-in-law also took part and even the Coast Guard cleaning lady Anne Fox got in on the action as one of the support crew manning the camper van.

Sid said: “It was a real family and friends event. We felt it was vitally important to do it. It was a homage to Ciaran, he had raised money for Laura Lynn Hospice before.

“To date as it stands we’re going to be giving them a cheque for €25,000 in his name. In 2015 I was privileged to be a small part of Ciaran’s achievement when he did it solo.

“I was one of the crew and watching him cycle around Ireland was five of the most inspirational days of my life. It was utterly awe-inspiring to watch that man do that.

“The plan for 2017 was he was to repeat that and I was to be with him, and in 2019 he was going to do the ultimate challenge, the Race Across America. But it wasn’t to be.”

Father-of-three Ciaran, from Oldtown, was lost with all three other R116 crew members when their helicopter crashed off the Mayo coast on March 14 last year.

The bodies of pilots Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered but their two colleagues, winch operator Ciaran and winchman Paul Ormsby, remain lost at sea.

Sid said: “Ciaran was a gentleman, he inspired me. I always say if you open the page in the dictionary on the word gentleman you will see two photographs, one is my grandfather and the other is Ciaran Smith.

“He had a lovely outlook on life. He was a lovely man and we sorely miss him.”

Team Invictus are still taking donations for the children’s hospice and will celebrate their achievement later this month. As for getting back in the saddle?

“If you asked me the day we finished I would have said b**ger off, my arse is sore,” admitted Sid. “But now I would say never say never. We’re not finished with this yet.”

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