Friday 28 April 2017

Dive teams hoping for 'weather window' to continue search for missing Rescue 116 crew members

Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring TD meet with members of the Irish Coastguard at Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116.
Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring TD meet with members of the Irish Coastguard at Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring TD are debriefed from the bridge of the LE Samuel Beckett situated near Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116 by Lt. Cdr Darragh Kirwan Officer in Commanding Le Samuel Beckett (centre wearing glasses) . Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring TD arrive at Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
Blacksod Lighthouse in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State at the Departments of An Taoiseach and Defence with Special Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD and Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring TD meet with members of the Irish Coastguard at Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring chats with Garda Supt. Tony Healy from Belmullet Garda Station and Garda Inspector Garry Walsh (right) after he paid a visit to Aughleam Community Hall near Blacksod in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring chats with Garda Supt. Tony Healy from Belmullet Garda Station after he paid a visit to Aughleam Community Hall near Blacksod in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
Minister of State for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring chats with Garda Kevin Conroy and Garda Tommy Organ from Belmullet Garda Station after he paid a visit to Aughleam Community Hall near Blacksod in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys
An Irish Navy RIB comes ashore from the LE Samuel Beckett at Blacksod Pier. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Members of the Irish Coast Guard searching the coast near Belmullet, Co Mayo, for the missing crew of Rescue 116 Photo: Frank McGrath

Robin Schiller

Dive teams are hoping a weather window will open on Friday to allow them to examine the wreckage of an Irish Coast Guard helicopter which crashed into the Atlantic over a week ago.

"Conditions are improving all the time," Declan Geoghegan of the Irish Coast Guard said.

Lt. Cmdr. Darragh Kirwan Officer in Command of the LE Samuel Beckett fourth from left, briefs Minister Paul Kehoe and Michael Ring TD along with Jurgan Whyte of the Air Accident Investigation and members of the Gardai and Defence Forces on the bridge of the LE Samuel Beckett Credit: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.
Lt. Cmdr. Darragh Kirwan Officer in Command of the LE Samuel Beckett fourth from left, briefs Minister Paul Kehoe and Michael Ring TD along with Jurgan Whyte of the Air Accident Investigation and members of the Gardai and Defence Forces on the bridge of the LE Samuel Beckett Credit: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

"There'll be an exploratory dive hopefully. The ROV can only tell us so much. The human eye is much better. Once the divers go down they will have a much more positive idea of things."

Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe and Minister for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring have visited Blacksod and have been briefed on the search efforts thus far.

Mr Ring expressed his sympathies to the families of the four crew members while paying tribute to the efforts being made by rescue workers and the local community.

"The people that are here behind me today providing food. The people that are putting their lives at risk going out on the boats, the people that have gone out searching the last number of days.

A letter written by Katie Frazer from Castlebar to the volunteers at Aughleam Community Hall near Blacksod in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116.
Pic Steve Humphreys
A letter written by Katie Frazer from Castlebar to the volunteers at Aughleam Community Hall near Blacksod in Co Mayo during the seach and recovery of Rescue 116. Pic Steve Humphreys

"I want to compliment this community. This is what rural life is about, this is what rural communities are about and I can not praise this community enough," Mr Ring said.

Speaking at a press briefing at Blacksod lighthouse on Thursday night, Supt Tony Healy said that recordings of the wreckage, taken by an underwater robot, were also being analysed to determine if the three crewmen were on board.

"We had two clear goals today. One was in relation to the ROV descending at the bottom this morning to clear the site to enable the navy divers to do a dive.

"The second was to do more underwater searching with the ROV and we're in the process of analysing that data," Supt Healy said.

The senior garda stated that all objectives had been met as part of the search, which included detecting a signal from the aircraft's black box.

An underwater robot has already been re-deployed to examine the wreckage of Rescue 116 and attempt to locate its three missing crew members.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was launched from the Irish Light's vessel, the Granuaile, this afternoon.

Equipped with high definition cameras and two robotic arms, the Holland 1 carried out further examinations along the sea bed where the main section of the aircraft has been located.

This site is 40m deep and close to where a signal from the helicopter's black box was detected.

Investigators and search teams have not yet been able to establish if the three missing crewmen- Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby- are with the wreckage.

The fourth crew member and pilot, Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, was recovered in a critical condition but later pronounced dead.

The AAIU has said it believed the tail of Rescue 116 hit rocks on the western end of the island, about 13km (eight miles) off the Mayo coast as it returned from supporting a rescue mission to refuel at Blacksod.

There was no indication of any danger moments before the Sikorsky S92 vanished, with the crew's final transmission: "Shortly landing at Blacksod."

It is hoped that the members of the Naval Service team can be deployed tomorrow morning in order to carry out a detailed examination of the wreckage, which is located 60m from Black Rock island.

Rescue workers and investigators have stated the weather conditions are expected to be favourable tomorrow, but stressed that divers will only be used if safe to do so.

Last night the navy vessel, the LE Samuel Beckett arrived at Blacksod Bay from where the operation is being coordinated.

Additional reporting from PA

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