Friday 15 November 2019

Key points in R116 report still not fully complied with

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. Photo: Collins
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. Photo: Collins
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

Two key recommendations outlined in a report investigating the Rescue 116 helicopter crash have still not been fully complied with.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has carried out a thorough inquiry into the tragedy which claimed the lives of four Irish Coast Guard members on March 14, 2017.

The crew - Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith - died after their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed into Black Rock island around 13km off the Mayo coast.

An interim report into the tragedy was released yesterday, in which several recommendations were outlined.

They include that Transport Minister Shane Ross will carry out a thorough review into all search and rescue missions in Ireland - which Mr Ross has stated he will do.

The interim report also gave an update on the progress of recommendations made in a preliminary report last April, and found that two key instructions are still to be fully completed.

Investigators found that CHC Ireland, the aircraft operator, should review and re-evaluate all route guides after it emerged that Black Rock island was not on a mapping system used by the Rescue 116 crew.

The AAIU says it has concerns about the efficacy of the safety systems operated by the company and has recommended that they be fully analysed.

CHC has taken several steps to comply with the recommendations, but the AAIU stated that the recommendation remains open.

A second key recommendation was made last year which called on RFD Beaufort to carry out a review of its life jacket beacons. This finding was made because the crew's locator beacons failed to activate.

The bodies of winchman Ciarán Smith and winch operator Paul Ormsby have still not been located despite extensive searches.

According to the interim report, RFD Beaufort informed the investigation team that modifications to life jackets had been made in this regard and that the changes were being validated through a trial.

However, the AAIU has deemed that this safety recommendation remains open.

A senior source told the Irish Independent that "more work" needs to be done on both interim proposals and that investigators are in constant contact with the relevant agencies.

The full report into the Rescue 116 tragedy is expected to take several more months to complete due to the large volume of material being looked at.

On Wednesday a number of memorial services took place on the Mullet peninsula involving family and loved ones of the crew to mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.

More than 300 people attended a mass in St Brendan's Church, Tirrane, before a wreath-laying service was held at Blacksod lighthouse in memory of the heroic crew who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Irish Independent

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