Sunday 18 February 2018

Lifting equipment attached to wreckage of Rescue 116 as recovery bid underway

The crew of Rescue 116; (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith,
The crew of Rescue 116; (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith,

Robin Schiller

Search teams are hoping a break in the weather will allow them to lift the wreckage of the Rescue 116 helicopter to locate two missing Irish Coast Guard members.

A Naval Service dive team managed to attach equipment to the wreckage this morning to assist the lifting process on what is the 20th day of the large scale search operation.

Adverse sea conditions have hampered the search operation for much of the last three weeks, but a brief weather window allowed the dive team to attach a bridle to the helicopter, which will harness the wreckage and bring it to the surface.

It is now hoped that weather conditions will improve to allow for lifting to commence and determine if the two missing crewmen are in or near the wreckage. 

Rescue teams and investigators are continuing to asses the sea conditions, which include tidal waves and large swells, to determine if it is safe to carry out search operations.

An underwater robot will be positioned close to the helicopters main section in order to observe the operation.

The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), named the Holland 1 will monitor attempts to raise the wreckage and intervene if any issues occur.

Search teams had previously tried to partially raise the aircraft with the help of flotation devices, but several attempts were unsuccessful.

A specialist salvage tug equipped with a large crane was dispatched off the Mayo coast over the weekend to assist recovering the wreckage of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter.

Salvage experts onboard the Ocean Challenger have been involved in the recovery of vessels in some of the worst maritime disasters in recent times, including the Tit Bornholm off Union Hall and the Pere Charles off Dunmore East. 

Investigators stressed that the priority is to locate and recover two missing Irish Coast Guard members-winch operator Ciaran Smith (38) and winch man Paul Ormsby (53).

The main section of Rescue 116 lies at seabed at depths of 40m and approximately 60m south east of the Blackrock island.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) have also stated that preliminary inspections indicate there were no mechanical anomalies before the helicopter's tail section collided with the western section of Blackrock island before crashing into the sea 12km off the Mayo coast in the early hours of March 14.

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