The first friday of July will always stand out in my mind as the saddest day of Tramore’s recent history.
On that day in 1999, the Co. Waterford coast was shrouded in dense fog, just as it has been for much of this week, and the four-man crew of the Irish Air Corps’ Helicopter RESCUE 111 were tragically killed when they crashed into the sand dunes of Tramore Beach as they attempted to land at nearby Waterford Airport.
A monument commemorating the brave crew is a fundamental part of Tramore’s Promenade and this week it has been adorned with flowers as the town remembers the bravest of brave men who were killed that evening.
The four who died were so young and from different parts of the country:
Sgt. Patrick Mooney, Stamullen, Co. Meath ~ aged 34 years
Capt. Dave O’ Flaherty, Tullamore, Co. Offaly ~ aged 30 years
Capt. Michael Baker, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford ~ aged 28 years
Cpl. Niall Byrne, Killiney, Co. Dublin ~ aged 25 years
As the inscription on the monument states, the men had successfully assisted in the rescue of five people in the heavy fog before tragedy befell them. They lost their lives fulfilling their Unit’s motto, ‘Go Mairidis Beo’ ( That others may live.)
Last evening, as I was thinking about the men and their bereft families, while looking out to sea at sunset, by absolute chance the Rescue Helicopter came flying across the Bay from the Metal Man direction. In my heart, I knew that today’s crew would also risk their lives to save others. Can we ever thank such brave men and women enough and do we fully appreciate what they are prepared to do for mankind?