Tributes paid to Air Corps helicopter crew who died in Tramore crash 20 years ago

Rescue 111 hit a sand dune in thick fog while returning from a rescue mission off the Waterford coast

Rescue 111 crashed 20 years ago  at Tramore beach. Photograph: Irish Coast Guard/Twitter

Rescue 111 crashed 20 years ago at Tramore beach. Photograph: Irish Coast Guard/Twitter

 

Tributes have been paid to the four Air Corps crew members who died this day 20 years ago when their helicopter crashed at Tramore beach, Co Waterford.

Dauphin helicopter crew members Capt Dave O’Flaherty (30) from Lucan, Capt Mick Baker (28) from Wexford, Sgt Paddy Mooney (34) from Meath and Cpl Niall Byrne (25) from Dublin died shortly after midnight on July 2nd, 1999, while returning from a successful rescue mission off the Waterford coast when their helicopter hit a sand dune in thick fog.

The crew had been returning from the first night of a search-and-rescue mission from their Waterford base, which had increased to 24-hour operations the day before the crash.

The crew of Rescue 111 set off after a five-metre vessel became lost in bad weather off the coast of Dungarvan in Co Waterford, while the Irish Coast Guard also launched the Helvick inshore lifeboat.

A Facebook post from the Irish Coast Guard remembered how after successfully locating the vessel and guiding it and the lifeboat back to harbour the helicopter turned for home.

The crew unsuccessfully tried to make two instrument landing system approaches in poor weather before opting for an approach from the coast.

“This was the last time they were heard from,” said the Irish Coast Guard post. “At approximately 01.00 the wreckage of the aircraft was located on Tramore beach, there were no survivors.”

The four crew members were “lost doing their duty protecting the lives of others”, wrote the post. “Go Mairidís Beo”.

The final report of the investigation into the crash, released in September 2000, identified two active causes, six contributory causes and nine systemic causes for the crash. The report highlighted the absence of after-hours air-traffic control at Waterford airport.

An officers’ representative organisation said the report highlighted the great strain being placed on the Air Corps generally, with Dauphin crews obliged to provide ministerial air transport, security and other duties, as well as search and rescue.

The four crew were awarded posthumous distinguished-service medals by the State nine years after the crash.