Friday 22 September 2017

'Hugely significant' discovery as underwater robot locates Rescue 116 wreckage

Next phase of the operation is to determine if the three missing crew members are with the wreckage

The crew of Rescue 116; (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith,
The crew of Rescue 116; (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith,

Robin Schiller

An underwater robot deployed this morning off the Mayo coast has located the wreckage of Rescue 116.

Search teams and rescue workers have described the discovery as "hugely significant".

The next phase of the operation is to determine if the three missing crew members- Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby- are with the wreckage.

Speaking at Blacksod lighthouse from where the operation is being coordinated, Supt Tony Healy said:

"This morning a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) from the Granuaile conducted operations on the sea bed and we located parts of Rescue 116.

"We're actively assessing what we found...this is a hugely significant step in the ongoing process of the crew of rescue 116.

"What we've recovered is wreckage and we're actively looking at that.

"We've found parts of the helicopter that we can identify as Rescue 116. Weather conditions play a huge role in enabling the Navy to conduct dives on site.

"The location is where we located in the region of the flight recorder, so that's the area we're concentrating on."

It is hoped that further examinations of the wreckage can be carried out on Friday afternoon if the weather remains favourable.

Jurgen Whyte of the Air Accident Investigation Unit said it was the "absolute hope" that the crew are with the wreckage.

"It's hugely positive, we could hear the beacon, we were homing in on the beacon and the proof in the pie is we have located the main part of the wreckage which is the helicopter itself.

"We have the wreckage so it's just a matter of getting the weather window to get the ROV down, work our way through the wreckage and hopefully we will be able to recover the crew," Mr Whyte said.

A statement from the Air Accident Investigation Unit reads; "The AAIU in consultation with An Garda Síochána, the Navy, the Coast Guard, the GSI and the Marine Institute wish to advise that following initial Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) operations the wreckage of R116 has been positively located on the sea bed on the Eastern side of Black Rock, at a depth of approx. 40m.

"Operations are continuing but are weather dependent."

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was launched shortly after 9am this morning from the Irish Lights vessel, the Granuaile.

It is the second time search teams have managed to deploy the high-tech device.

The machine, named the Holland 1 was also deployed for a short period of time last night.

Speaking to Independent.ie yesterday evening, Irish Coast Guard officer Niall Ferns said that the deployment was an opportunity to examine the underwater conditions.

"We have managed to get the ROV into the water in the last 20 minutes. We're taking this opportunity to the ROV down and have a look at what's down there," Mr Ferns said.

He added that the underwater robot will be working in water at depths of 40m.

A 13-man Naval Service dive team are also on standby at the Blacksod lighthouse from where the operation is being coordinated.

Extensive mapping has also been carried out of the water to assist search operations.

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