Tuesday 19 September 2017

Underwater robot deployed in search for Rescue 116 crew

An evening vigil for the families and crew of Rescue 116 at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo, with Blackrock Lighthouse in the distance. Photo: Steve Humphreys
An evening vigil for the families and crew of Rescue 116 at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo, with Blackrock Lighthouse in the distance. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Robin Schiller

Search teams trying to find the Rescue 116 helicopter and its three missing crewmen have deployed an underwater robot in what is seen as significant progress in the operation.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), named the Holland 1, was launched shortly after 8pm yesterday from the Graunaile vessel. Although the ROV was only able to operate for a short period of time, it is seen as a significant development.

The move came as a candlelight vigil was held near Blacksod. Up to 200 locals as well as family and friends of the Rescue 116 crew gathered in a solemn show of solidarity.

The underwater robot, used to examine the wreckage of the helicopter, is expected to be deployed again in shallow waters shortly after 7am today. A 13-man Naval Service diving team is on standby with full equipment, including a decompression chamber on board, if required.

The primary focus of the operation is the recovery of the three missing crewmen - Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby - while investigators are also hopeful of recovering the helicopter's black box.

Extensive mapping has also been carried out by the Marine Institute to assist the search team and ensure that no dangerous obstacles impede the operation.

Investigators had previously confirmed that wreckage recovered showed marks that were consistent with the aircraft hitting off the rocky surface of Blackrock island, located 12km off the Mayo coast. Jurgen Whyte, chief inspector of the Air Accident Investigation Unit, said that investigators had to abseil down the surface of the rock in order to examine the wreckage.

"On Tuesday we were out with the Air Corps helicopter and two rope specialists from the Defence Force Army helped us abseil down the side of the cliff. There we identified more items of wreckage that are indication of impact but as of yet we have not identified the actual impact point," he said.

"Really all we can say is that the aircraft tail made contact with some solid structure - more likely a rock in a placement at a glancing blow. From there we are of the opinion that the aircraft entered the water at some distance later."

Irish Independent

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