Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Dundalk man among missing coast guard helicopter crew

Searches are continuing for a Dundalk pilot still missing along with two of his crew members after the Irish Coast Guard helicopter they were aboard crashed off the coast of Mayo in the early hours of last Tuesday morning.  Chief Pilot Mark Duffy remains missing along with winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

The crew’s Captain, Dara Fitzpatrick, was found in a critical condition by RNLI crew hours after the aircraft lost contact as it was coming in to refuel during a rescue operation.  She was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. A major sea search continued throughout last week for the stricken crew, with the air search resuming at first light on Friday.

It has emerged that Mr Duffy, who lives in Blackrock, was part of the helicopter rescue operation which helped to save the lives of a father and son in Carlingford when their helicopter came down the previous weekend.

A native of Dundalk, Mr Duffy later moved to the nearby seaside village of Blackrock where he lived with his wife Hermione and two children.

He began flying rescue missions for the Dublin-based crew in 2002 having  previously worked with the California Coast Guard in San Francisco for seven years after completing his training in America.  The pilot is said to have described his role with the Irish Coast Guard as his “dream job”, which allowed him to move back to County Louth.  The father-of-two was renowned for his work in the community on behalf of the Coast Guard, regularly visiting local schools to talk about water safety.

There is widespread shock and sadness in the Blackrock community at the loss of the well known helicopter pilot and thoughts and prayers are continuing around the country for the recovery of Mr Duffy and his colleagues.

A signal from the helicopter’s black box had been located but poor weather conditions have hampered efforts to find the device.

The main focus of the search operation is to locate the three missing crew but agencies involved say it may be some time before they can try to access the area where they believe the wreckage of the aircraft is located.