Thursday 22 February 2018

Fleet of trawlers to scour the Atlantic for lost crewmen

The wreckage of R116 passes through the streets of Galway on its way to the Gormanston air accident investigation facility. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The wreckage of R116 passes through the streets of Galway on its way to the Gormanston air accident investigation facility. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ed Carty

A flotilla of trawlers is to comb a swathe of the Atlantic Ocean off the north-west coast in the continued hope of finding the two missing winchmen from the Irish Coast Guard's Rescue 116 helicopter.

The wreckage of the Sikorsky S-92 was transported to an air accident investigation facility after being brought ashore just over three weeks after the accident.

The search and rescue helicopter crashed into the sea about 13km off the Co Mayo coast after hitting Blackrock island on March 14 as it returned from supporting an operation to rescue an injured fisherman out in the Atlantic.

The wreckage was lifted from the seabed on Sunday.

The body Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was pulled from the sea in the hours after the crash, and the body of Captain Mark Duffy was taken from the cockpit 12 days later by Navy divers working at depths of 40 metres.

Efforts to find Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, the winch team, have continued, with searches extending from the north Galway coast and Achill island along the western seaboard into Donegal Bay and west Donegal.

Sean O'Donoghue, of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation (KFO), and Francis O'Donnell, of the Irish Fish Producers Organisation (IFPO), said they were organising a fleet of large trawlers and other boats to leave south Donegal tomorrow to begin a co-ordinated search from Blackrock island at dawn on Saturday.

"The intention is to search northwards from Blackrock covering Donegal Bay and farther north," they said.

Some pieces of the helicopter's fuselage were found off west Donegal two weeks after the crash.

Mr O'Donoghue and Mr O'Donnell urged small boat users not to take any risks trying to support the search.

Ireland's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has taken what was salvaged from the wreckage of Rescue 116 - a large section of the engine, rotor head and gear box - for analysis at its facility in Gormanston, Co Meath.

Inspectors revealed at the weekend that initial reviews of the black box flight recorder showed there was no indication of any mechanical problems in the seconds before the helicopter hit Blackrock island and crashed into the ocean.

The AAIU is expected to publish a preliminary report on the accident in the next 10 days.

Irish Independent

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