Cyclists arrive at Blacksod to mark Rescue 116 anniversary
‘Miles in their Memory’ event in Mayo marks loss of four Coast Guard air crew
Cyclists taking part in the Ballyglass Coast Guard Rescue 116/Caitríona Lucas cycle from Dublin to Blacksod, Co Mayo, near Bellacorick, Co Mayo, on Sunday. Photograph: Keith Heneghan
Pedalling across the island in two days, a group of 77 cyclists arrived at Blacksod lighthouse in north Mayo last night to mark the first anniversary of the loss of four Coast Guard Rescue 116 air crew.
The “Miles in their Memory” cyclists also completed the 347km transit from Dublin as a tribute to Coast Guard Doolin volunteer Caitríona Lucas, and in memory of all those who have died at sea.
Rescue 116 pilots Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy and winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith died on March 14th last year when their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed at Blackrock Island, 13km west of Blacksod.
Ms Lucas died on September 12th, 2016, while assisting the Kilkee Coast Guard unit during a search off the Co Clare coast.
The 77 cyclists are members of Coast Guard’s Ballyglass unit, which was involved in the 42-day search, along with members of Belmullet Cycling Club and gardaí.
The bodies of Mr Ormsby and Mr Smith have still not been found, but local fishermen and members of the community continue to search the shoreline at low tide.
Michael Hurst, officer in charge of the Coast Guard’s Ballyglass unit, said the cycling group could have had “hundreds more participants” but had to draw a line for safety reasons.
“It was an idea one of our members came up with last year,” he said. “We have had a number of fatalities off the north Mayo coast, and so we want to remember their families also.”
The cycling team, supported by a large number of volunteers including puncture repair, broke the journey at Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, and continued on Sunday via Frenchpark, Co Roscommon, to Belmullet – regrouping for the final leg to Blacksod lighthouse at the tip of the Mullet peninsula.
A short ceremony at Blacksod helipad included lighting five emergency flares in memory of the Rescue 116 crew and Ms Lucas. The Rescue 116 helicopter had been due to land to refuel at Blacksod when it crashed en route in the early hours of March 14th.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross paid good wishes to the cyclists when he saw them off from Dublin Airport on Saturday morning.