Northern Ireland

R116 crash: Flotilla honours crashed helicopter crew

Rescue 116 flotilla Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The flotilla culminated in a ceremony at Rostrevor Bay in County Down

Boats have taken part in a flotilla in memory of the crew of a rescue helicopter, which crashed off the County Mayo coast.

Four people died after the Irish Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 116 plunged into the sea in March.

All marine vessels on Carlingford Lough were invited to join the flotilla on Sunday, culminating in a ceremony at Rostrevor Bay in County Down.

Kilkeel RNLI Lifeboats were among the boats present.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick died after she was rescued from the sea hours after the crash.

The body of her co-pilot Capt Mark Duffy, was later found.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Four people died when the helicopter plunged into the sea on 14 March

The bodies of winch operator Paul Ormsby and winch man Ciarán Smith have never been recovered.

White and red roses

Boats departed from Carlingford at 14:00 local time, and linked up with others at the holding point east of Omeath to form a flotilla.

A lone piper performed as the first boats travelled up the lough, from Warrenpoint to Rostrevor Bay.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The Irish Coast Guard, HM Coastguard, RNLI and Irish Navy participated in the event

A memorial service, which began at 16:30 BST, was held in the bay, with wreaths laid in memory of the crew. Each boat laid either a white or red rose in the water.

The Irish Coast Guard, HM Coastguard, RNLI and Irish Navy participated in the event, with shore activities on the Shore Road Green in Rostrevor and in Carlingford Marina.

'Cross border'

Organiser Sheila Fitzgerald, whose cousin Ciarán Smith died in the crash, told the BBC why she got involved in the event.

"The idea came from Rostrevor Boat Club, who then got in touch with me. Because my cousin died in the crash, I wanted to do something, so badly, to remember him.

"Over 120 vessels have expressed interest and it could be the largest non-race flotilla Ireland has seen.

Image copyright Sheila Fitzgerald
Image caption Wreaths were laid in the bay in memory of the crew

"One thing that has really stood out is the cross-border co-operation between HM Coastguard, the Irish coastguard, Garda (Irish Police), PSNI, search and rescue teams north and south and the RNLI.

"I couldn't say enough about how they've worked together - they're just laid out a red carpet and have worked hand-in-hand with us.

"Its such an important cross-border event and it's important to remember, if you're a mariner and you're in trouble at sea, you don't care who comes to rescue you."

She added: "People have been arriving from all over Ireland since last night."

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