Tuesday 24 October 2017

Hopes weather will allow recovery of Rescue 116 crew member

  • Naval divers were not deployed today due to ocean swells
  • Wider air and land searches take place
  • Hopes diving can resume tomorrow
The Garda Sub Aqua Unit at Blacksod Pier as they continue in the search for Rescue 116 and its crew.
Pic Steve Humphreys
25th March 2017
The Garda Sub Aqua Unit at Blacksod Pier as they continue in the search for Rescue 116 and its crew. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017
An Irish Coast GuardHelicopter lifts off from Blacksod Pier next door to the house where family members of the missing crew are watching from as the search continues for Rescue 116 along Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017
A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards Blackrock Lighthouse Photo: Steve Humphreys
Members of the Irish Coast Guard at Blacksod Pier as the search continues for Rescue 116 along Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017
Members of the Irish Coast Guard at Blacksod Pier as the search continues for Rescue 116 along Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017
The Garda Sub Aqua Unit leave Blacksod Co Mayo to continue in the search for Rescue 116 and its crew. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017
The Garda Sub Aqua Unit leave Blacksod Pier to continue in the search for Rescue 116 and its crew. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017

Robin Schiller

Rescue workers have not yet been able to free an Irish Coast Guard member who is trapped in the helicopter wreckage off the west coast.

It was confirmed last night that one crew member of Rescue 116 was located in the cockpit of the Sikorsky S-92 aircraft, but investigators stressed they can not confirm the crew members identity at this stage.

Naval Service personnel hope to resume diving operations in the morning while members of the Garda Water Unit are expected to carry out wider searches in an attempt to locate the two missing crew members.

Senior gardaí said that an underwater robot was deployed this afternoon but that the crew member inside the wreckage has not yet been recovered.

Inspector Gary Walsh, of the Mayo Garda Division, said :"The ROV has been in the water on different occasions but it's still not possible to free the trapped individual in the aircraft.

"The site scan is continuing and there's an additional piece of equipment out there, it's an underwater camera that's been used to scan the broader site in the search for the missing two crew members.

"No dive will take place today due to the sea swell but it is hoped that dives can take place tomorrow," he said.

"The ROV has been doing most of the work today. At the moment the Superintendent , Chief Superintendent and all the relevant command personnel from the various agencies are aboard the Granuaile, they're having a command meeting to assess what the best approach is between now and darkness and to see what work the ROV can do to free the trapped individual on board.

"It's being assessed all the time, the Garda Water Unit hope to get down. They've done preparatory dives- they're ready to go if they get a window of opportunity.

"There in a position to dive on the wreck if they get a window of opportunity to do it. The navy will maintain their current position and the Garda Water Unit is hoping to do a wider sweep in the search for the other two crew members," Inspt Walsh added.

An increase in swells near the Blackrock island, where the aircraft's wreckage is located, meant a Naval Service dive team was not deployed this afternoon for safety reasons.

It emerged last night that one of the three crewmen was located in the helicopter, but senior investigators have said they can not confirm the Irish Coast Guard member's identity at this stage.

Search teams will attempt to remove the located crew member from the aircraft's cockpit once diving operations recommence.

Investigators have not been able to locate the other two crew members.

The black box from the Sikorsky S-92 aircraft was also located shortly after 4.30pm yesterday, and was later transferred to the capital and will be flown to the UK.

The data flight recorder will help investigators establish what caused the Irish Coast Guard helicopter to collide into the western section of Blackrock Island.

Co-pilot Mark Duffy, winch operator Ciaran Smith and winch man Paul Ormsby were on board the Rescue 116 helicopter when it collided with a remote island off the Mayo coast in the early hours of Tuesday, March 14.

The fourth crew member and pilot Capt Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered by an RNLI lifeboat on the morning of the collision and transferred to Mayo General Hospital but was later pronounced dead.

Shoreline searches are being carried out by the Civil Defence while the air search area has also been widened. Rescue helicopters from Shannon and Sligo are surveying west of the Inishkea islands, and further north towards Downpatrick Head and Donegal Bay.

Lieut Cdr Darragh Kirwan of the LE Samuel Beckett - on-scene co-ordinator - said that eight safe dives had taken place on the wreckage before the five teams of ten divers had to finish around 8pm last night.

The divers were restricted to eight to nine minutes below, due to the depth and conditions, but this was extended for the last dive to make most use of the available time and these divers were given controlled decompression in the chamber on board the Granuaile," he said.

"The divers are focusing on several key areas of interest around the wreck site,and our priority is to try to locate and recover the three missing men, "he said. The search had been "methodical"  to clear access to the wreckage.

Conditions were "workable", but there was a swell along the seabed, he said.

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