Category: Archive

Chopper crash leaves 4 dead

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Government ‘ronautical experts are investigating the cause of a crash of an Air Corps rescue helicopter last Friday that left four members of the force dead when it plunged into sand dunes at the Tramore holiday resort in County Waterford.

The crew had just taken over in Waterford with a French Dauphin helicopter that has night flying capability to provide 24-hour rescue cover for the southeast region.

It was the worst disaster in the history of the small Air Corps force and Defense Minister Michael Smith described it as a "catastrophe."

President Mary McAleese, as head of the Defense Forces, led the messages of sympathy and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said their deaths were all the more poignant given that they had helped saves lives themselves shortly before the crash.

Two of the crew had been involved earlier in the week in flying the taoiseach to the marathon Stormont peace negotiations.

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The four dead were Captain Dave O’Flaherty, 30, from Tullamore, Co. Offaly; Captain Mick Baker, 28, from Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford; Sergeant Paddy Mooney, 34, from Stamullen, Co. Meath, and Corporal Niall Byrne, 24, from Killiney, Co. Dublin.

The pilot had made three attempts to land in dense fog at Waterford airport after they had been involved in the rescue of five people in a small boat reported missing off the coast in Dungarvan Bay.

The helicopter had been called out from the airport shortly before midnight to join two lifeboats searching for the boat.

When the missing vessel was found, it was towed to safety by the Helvick Head lifeboat. Those on board were unharmed.

However, the alarm was raised for the helicopter crew itself after contact was lost and the wreckage was found.

It is believed the helicopter may have clipped the top of a sand dune in the dense fog and spun out of control. Some of the famous Tramore dunes are up to 250 feet high.

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