Memorial to R116 Coast Guard heroes installed in Skerries

by Sylvia Pownall

A plaque in memory of the Rescue 116 Coast Guard crew killed in a helicopter crash two years ago has been installed in Skerries.

The tribute to heroes Ciaran Smith, Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy and Paul Ormsby now joins the names of 260 others on the seaside town’s Pole Sea Memorial.

The climbable commemorative sculpture is in memory of those lost at sea off the Skerries coast and the R116 crew flew overhead when it was first unveiled in 2013.

The project is driven by artist and sculptor Shane Holland, who installed the plaque to the Coast Guard crew last weekend, ahead of the second anniversary of the tragedy this Thursday, March 14.

He told Dublin Gazette:

“R116 and the RNLI and all the marine services were at the opening; they would have always been looking over the waters off Skerries and north Dublin.

“They were a big part of our life.

“The crew would have been very familiar with the area and we were all so shocked by the Mayo tragedy, especially with Ciaran being from Oldtown.

“His pals say he used to make them fly over his house to let his family know they were back safe.”

All four crew aboard the Sikorsky S-92 were killed when it crashed into the sea while supporting a rescue mission off the Mayo coast in the early hours of March 14, 2017.

The bodies of pilots Dara Fitzpatrick, from Kilternan in south Dublin, and Mark Duffy, from Wicklow, were later recovered. Dad-of-three Ciaran and fellow winchman Paul Ormsby from Ballyfermot remain lost at sea.

Shane contacted Ciaran’s wife Martina and his family through Wild Geese GAA Club and they insisted that every member of the crew must be mentioned on the plaque.

Fallen heroes

It reads: “Ciaran Smith of Oldtown, Co Dublin, Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and Paul Ormsby. 14 March 2017.

“Lost their lives in the line of duty onboard Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 at Blackrock, Co Mayo.”

Known locally as ‘the totem pole’, the sea memorial has been used as a viewing platform by the Coast Guard and was part of key life-saving equipment to help rescue people from stricken ships.

It fell into disrepair and was removed but was reinstated with the support of Fingal County Council following a community campaign led by Shane.

The pole now bears 265 plates – a register of ships, fishermen, U-boats, sailors, swimmers, rescuers and wartime casualties from 12 nations.

Shane said: “It was a big project to get off the ground and it started after local fishermen were lost at sea in 2011.

“This covers everything from the 1700s through the big storm of the 1860s. It’s incredible what our research uncovered.”

There will be no official unveiling of the R116 plaque, because Shane felt it would have been unfair to the families to subject them to a public ceremony.

He said: “We were aware that it was still very raw with the families. We didn’t want to put them under pressure to be the centre of attention.

“We just wanted it there so people can pay their respects on March 14 in whatever way they see fit.”

Shane thanked Fingal County Council for their support and in particular Cllrs Cathal Boland and Brian Dennehy, and Labour TD Brendan Ryan.

To donate or find out more about Skerries Sea Pole Memorial, see its Facebook page.

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