Monday 24 April 2017

Divers prepare to examine R116 wreckage after weather breaks

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe and Regional Economic Development Minister and local TD Michael Ring are debriefed from the bridge of the LE Samuel Beckett situated near Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe and Regional Economic Development Minister and local TD Michael Ring are debriefed from the bridge of the LE Samuel Beckett situated near Blacksod Bay in Co Mayo. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Robin Schiller

Navy divers will today for the first time be able to examine the wreckage of Rescue 116 in an attempt to locate three missing Irish Coast Guard members.

Senior investigators and rescue workers are confident that a significant operation will be put in place this morning on what is the 11th day of the large-scale search mission.

Weather conditions are also expected to be favourable over the weekend which will allow for further dives to take place.

Speaking at a press briefing at Blacksod lighthouse last 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 was deployed for a number of hours yesterday afternoon, where it carried out further examinations of the main section of the aircraft's wreckage.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), named the Holland 1, was deployed from the Granuaile and inspected the Rescue 116 remains some 40m under water and 60m south east of the Blackrock lighthouse.

This high-tech machine is equipped with high-definition cameras which transmit a live feed to the ROV operators aboard the Granuaile.

Investigators believe that the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter's tail section glanced off rocks on the west of the island, before crashing into the sea 12km off the Mayo coast.

Rescue workers have stated that the priority is the recovery of the three crew members - Capt Mark Duffy, winch operator Ciarán Smith and winch man Paul Ormsby.

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

Once the missing men are accounted for, the operation will focus on collecting the helicopter's flight recorder, more commonly referred to as the black box.

The recovery of this device will assist investigators in establishing what led to the Rescue 116 helicopter colliding with the Blackrock island.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe met with rescue and navy personnel aboard the LE Samuel Beckett, where he was briefed on the ongoing operation.

Mr Kehoe was joined by Regional Economic Development Minister and local TD Michael Ring, who also met with members of the local community.

Irish Independent

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