Wednesday 19 December 2018

DPP to decide on criminal charges over R116 tragedy, inquest told

Mary, John and Niamh Fitzpatrick, parents and sister of Dara Fitzpatrick, at the inquest into the deaths of the Rescue 116 helicopter crew. Photo: Mark Condren
Mary, John and Niamh Fitzpatrick, parents and sister of Dara Fitzpatrick, at the inquest into the deaths of the Rescue 116 helicopter crew. Photo: Mark Condren
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

Gardaí investigating the Rescue 116 helicopter crash are preparing a file for the DPP to determine if any criminal charges will be brought in relation to the fatal incident.

The inquest into the tragedy opened in Belmullet, Co Mayo, yesterday, where coroner Dr Eleanor Fitzgerald heard evidence from a number of different agencies outlining the initial search operation and subsequent investigations.

The crew, Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy, winchman Ciarán Smith and winch operator Paul Ormsby, died after their Irish Coast Guard helicopter crashed around 12km off the coast of Co Mayo.

Capt Fitzpatrick's body was recovered from the water near Black Rock, while Capt Duffy's remains were recovered on the seabed at 11.10am on March 26.

Mr Smith's and Mr Orsmby's remains have not been found, but death certs were issued for them with the coroner declaring their deaths as missing at sea.

Inspector Gary Walsh of Belmullet garda station also told the inquest that a file was being prepared for the DPP by gardaí in conjunction with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). This, Insp Walsh said, is to determine if there is any criminal culpability or negligence in the case.

However,, the senior investigator also said there was a delay in the investigation as gardaí were still awaiting documentation. Dr Fitzgerald adjourned the inquest until a later date to allow for the various investigations into the tragedy to be completed.

A preliminary statement into the crash was issued by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) last month, but a full report into the incident is not expected to be completed for a number of months.

Chief inspector with the AAIU Jürgen Whyte described the investigation carried out by his unit as the "most challenging and difficult" he had ever encountered.

Irish Independent

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