Saturday 22 July 2017

Underwater robot deployed in latest attempt to search for Rescue 116 and missing crewmen

* Search robot to be deployed this morning
* Primary focus of operation is the recovery of the three missing crewmen
* Robot will also examine wreckage of helicopter

Members of the Irish Coast Guard searching the coast near Belmullet, Co Mayo, for the missing crew of Rescue 116 Photo: Frank McGrath
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

An underwater robot has been deployed into waters off the Black Rock Island, Co Mayo, in the latest efforts to locate an Irish Coast Guard helicopter and its three missing crew.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was launched shortly after 9am this morning from the Marine Institute 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, 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.

Weather conditions are expected to improve on Friday morning when further searches will be carried out.

A evening prayer vigil held for the familes and crew of Rescue 116 with Blackrock Lighthouse in the distance near Blacksod Co Mayo Credit: Steve Humphreys
A evening prayer vigil held for the familes and crew of Rescue 116 with Blackrock Lighthouse in the distance near Blacksod Co Mayo Credit: Steve Humphreys

The primary focus of the operation is the recovery of the three missing crewmen- Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby- while investigators are also hopeful to locate the helicopter's blackbox.

The ROV will attempt to examine the wreckage of the Rescue 116 helicopter which is located in depths of 40m and approximately 60m off the Black Rock island.

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.

A number of agencies including An Garda Siochana, the AAIU and the Defence Forces traveled to Black Rock shortly before 3pm yesterday afternoon to carry out further examinations of the site.

Thomas Fury, Marine Institute INFOR Programme Manager, said that the co-operation of the various agencies has helped progress the operation.

"On Sunday evening we tried to launch the ROV approximately 140m off shore but we couldn't. The mapping we've done will help direct the ROV into a safe location.

"The swell currently comes up fast. We would never normally operate in conditions like the guys have been working in, apart from the support the agencies have been providing on site to on another.

"Any other country in Europe; it would take a few weeks to get to this advanced stage but because we are such a small country with advanced marine technology it has allowed everyone to pull together a lot quicker," Mr Fury said.

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