On July 1st 1999 a new 24 hours Search and Rescue(SAR) service was launched at Waterford Airport. That night their first Mayday call was received at around 10pm(local time-9pm UTC) after a long day of publicity flights and briefings. A boat was missing off Dungarvan with a sick child on board.
The crew had no ‘work-up’ time in the area, that is they had no time to familiarize themselves with the area, and the weather was very poor, visibility that night was about 500 metres.
The boat was located and towed by the Helvick LifeBoat with Rescue 111 standing by. The helicopter was released to return to Waterford around midnight. They overshot the airport due to poor conditions and eventually decided to try to land on Tramore Beach.
At 00.40 local time, 23.40 UTC Rescue 111 crashed into the dunes at Tramore Beach with the loss of the four lives on board.
We here in the SouthEast hold the SAR close to our hearts. Two years ago then Minister Noel Dempsey tried to cut our SAR from 24 hours to 12 hours to save a mere €1 million-but had to reverse the decision after the ensuing uproar.
The men and women of our SAR risk their lives for us daily and many around here owe their lives to them. I doubt I am the only one of the people who live in these parts- surfers, fishermen, kayakers, swimmers, sailors and their families-who feels a rush of blood to the heart when they see our SAR flying over and a part of that furious love is a response to the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of four brave men who gave their lives to help people.
Sgt. Patrick Mooney, Meath ~ aged 34 years
Capt. Dave O’ Flaherty, Offaly ~ aged 30 years
Capt. Michael Baker, Wexford ~ aged 28 years
Cpl. Niall Byrne, Dublin ~ aged 25 years
May ye Rest in Peace.