WELCOME HOME Cyclists who took part in the Miles in their Memory memorial cycle arriving home to a warm welcome in Blacksod on Sunday evening.
‘A FANTASTIC experience’ is how Michael Hurst, the Officer-in-Charge of the Ballyglass Coast Guard described the Miles in their Memory cycle, which saw 77 cyclists cycle from Dublin to Blacksod in memory of the crew of R116.
The cyclists, which were made up of members of the Belmullet Cycling Club, Ballyglass Coast Guard unit and local gardaí, arrived in Blacksod to a hero’s welcome on Sunday evening following a two-day cycle from Dublin Airport.
Miles in their Memory was organised by the Belmullet Cycling Club and the Ballyglass Coast Guard unit to mark the first anniversary of the death of the R116 crew as well as remembering Caitriona Lucas, a member of the Doolin Coast Guard in Co Clare and all those who died at sea.
The crew of R116 – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith – died after their helicopter struck Blackrock Island in Blacksod Bay in the early hours of March 14, 2017.
Some of the cyclists appeared on The Late Late Show on Friday evening before setting off on Saturday morning. Michael Hurst told The Mayo News that they did not expect the cycle to be a big event but the support they received from all over the country showed that the crew of R116 are still very much in the memory of the nation.
“When we thought of organising the cycle it was meant to be a small event. However, we received very positive feedback on Facebook and when we were invited on The Late Late Show it became a national event. It [R116 accident] touched a nation, and the support we received showed the families that their loved ones have not been forgotten,” he said.
The cyclists set off from Dublin Airport where the Irish Coast Guard rescue helicopter R116 is based, and they tried to follow the flight path taken by the crew on their journey to Mayo. They stayed overnight in Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday night and while cycling along the Charlestown by-pass they received a fly-over from the Sligo-based R118 helicopter.
“It was an emotional time for us and when you looked up and saw R118 flying over, it was a real poignant moment. You realised then the immensity of why we were doing the cycle,” he said.
The cyclists arrived into Mayo in glorious sunshine and Michael thanked all the people who greeted them on the final leg of the journey into Erris.
“We received a great welcome all along the road, and as we got closer, the bonfires were lit and crowds of people came out to welcome us. We would just like to thank people for that. We regrouped at the Broadhaven Bay Hotel and we stopped at Eachléim to acknowledge all the ladies there who worked so hard during the search. The Ballyglass Coast Guard then led the peloton to Blacksod lighthouse. It was a fantastic experience.”