Tuesday 19 March 2019

'R116 accident could hit our profits,' warns firm behind rescue service

CHC, which is now controlled in the United States, operates the search and rescue service helicopters around the coast. Photo: Damien Eagers
CHC, which is now controlled in the United States, operates the search and rescue service helicopters around the coast. Photo: Damien Eagers
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The company that operated the R116 search and rescue helicopter that crashed off Co Mayo this year with the loss of its crew, has admitted that it may be subject to legal and regulatory proceedings that could materially affect its profitability.

CHC Ireland, which is now controlled by US-based CHC but has its roots in Canada, made the admission in the latest set of accounts published for the firm at the Companies Registration Office.

The R116 Sikorsky helicopter was providing cover on a mission in March that involved the rescue of an injured fisherman from a UK-registered vessel about 240km off Ireland's west coast.

But the aircraft disappeared from radar at 12.45am on March 14. It had been returning to Blacksod, Co Mayo, to refuel but en route it crashed into Blackrock Island.

It later emerged that the island was not included on the helicopter's onboard warning system due to missing navigational data on maps published by the Irish Aviation Authority.

The four crew members of the R116 - Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciarán Smith - died in the tragedy.

"Two investigations are currently under way by Republic of Ireland agencies," CHC Ireland directors noted in its most recently filed annual accounts.

They noted that one probe is being undertaken by the Air Accident Investigations Unit (AAIU) and another joint investigation being carried out by the police and the Health and Safety Authority.

CHC Ireland said it expected the full report from the AAIU to be released early in 2018, following a preliminary report that was published in April this year.

"This accident could result in legal and regulatory proceedings, which could materially impact our revenue and profitability," CHC Ireland noted in its accounts.

"It is too early to determine the extent of the impact of the accident on our results of operations or financial condition based on the information currently available."

The latest set of accounts for the company show that its profit after tax fell to €2.8m in the 12 months to the end of last April.

That compared to a profit after tax of just under €4m in the previous financial year.

CHC Ireland said the decline in profitability in the period was "mainly" due to penalties imposed in the latest financial year.

It did not specify what the penalties related to, or how much they were.

CHC Ireland operates search and rescue services for the Irish Coast Guard under a 10-year, €500m contract, from bases at Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford.

Irish Independent

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