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Sunday 17 December 2017

Plans to raise Rescue 116 helicopter wreckage suspended due to deteriorating weather conditions

  • Plans to raise wreckage suspended
  • Search for two missing Coast Guard members to continue tomorrow
  • Hopes to raise aircraft at 2pm tomorrow
Keeping a vigil: A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continues for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Photo: Steve Humphreys
Keeping a vigil: A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continues for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Photo: Steve Humphreys
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 body of Captain Mark Duffy is borne gently ashore at Blacksod, Co Mayo, by some of his colleagues from the Coast Guard service for formal identification. Photo: Chris Radburn, PA
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
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 at Blacksod Pier as they continue in the search for Rescue 116 and its crew. Pic Steve Humphreys 25th March 2017
A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards Blackrock Lighthouse Photo: Steve Humphreys
Family liaison officer Garda Sinéad Barrett brings flowers to Blacksod Pier as the search continues for the Rescue 116 crew Photo: Steve Humphreys
The search continues for Rescue 116 along Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Pic Steve Humphreys 24th March 2017
The search continues for Rescue 116 along Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Pic Steve Humphreys 24th 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
The Irish Coast Guard land at Blacksod Pier as the search continues for Rescue 116 along Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Picture: Steve Humphreys

Robin Schiller

Plans to raise the wreckage of the Rescue 116 helicopter to allow dive teams to search for two missing Irish Coast Guard members have been suspended due to deteriorating weather conditions.

Rescue workers had hoped to partially lift the main section of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter this evening with the help of flotation devices.

A Naval Service dive team would then be deployed and carry out searches for the two missing crewmen-winch operator Ciaran Smith (38) and winch man Paul Ormsby (53).

However, weather conditions have forced the operation to be postponed with the hope of raising the aircraft at 2pm tomorrow.

Investigators said that flotation devices have been placed underneath the airbag and a Naval Service dive team will be deployed at 11am tomorrow to carry out inspections before searching for the two missing men.

Their colleague, Capt Mark Duffy (51) was brought to shore on Sunday afternoon after Naval Service divers recovered his body from the cockpit of the helicopter wreckage.

(Clockwise from top left): Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby
(Clockwise from top left): Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby

A post mortem examination was completed by the State Pathologist this morning and Capt Duffy's remains were returned to Co Louth ahead of his funeral on Thursday morning at St Oliver Plunkett Church, Blackrock.

The fourth crew member, Capt Dara Fitzpatrick (45) was recovered by an RNLI lifeboat but was later pronounced dead.

Supt Tony Healy said that flotation devices would be used to slightly raise the aircraft allowing for examinations of the seabed underneath the wreckage in the hope of locating the missing Irish Coast Guard members.

If the remains are not located then the search area- involving divers from the Garda Water Unit- will be expanded.

The hearse carrying Capt Mark Duffy to Mayo General Hospital is escorted by rescue workers. Photo: PA
The hearse carrying Capt Mark Duffy to Mayo General Hospital is escorted by rescue workers. Photo: PA

Investigators have also revealed that the aircraft's flight recover has suffered corrosive damage but hope to have the information made available to them by the end of this week. 

The recorder, commonly refereed to as the 'black box' will form an integral part of the investigation and help the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) determine what led to the tragic collision.

The body of Captain Mark Duffy is borne gently ashore at Blacksod, Co Mayo, by some of his colleagues from the Coast Guard service for formal identification. Photo: Chris Radburn, PA
The body of Captain Mark Duffy is borne gently ashore at Blacksod, Co Mayo, by some of his colleagues from the Coast Guard service for formal identification. Photo: Chris Radburn, PA

Chief Inspector of the AAIU Jurgen Whyte said that information from the recorder would be available by the end of this week.

"There is some slight corrosion damage to some of the contact points of the recorder. Our English colleagues are consulting with the manufacturer of the recorder but we're confident that by some time towards the end of he week we will be able to extract data from the recorder itself," Mr Whyte said.

Asked if the damage would interfere with retrieving the data, the senior investigator said: "We don't think so. We will have all the connectors in the right place at the right time to ensure that we get a 100pc download.

"We won't do any download until we're fully confident that it's in the right condition to do so."

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