Tuesday 15 October 2019

Report into R116 helicopter crash at an advanced stage

March 14, 2017: A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continued for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Photo: Steve Humphreys
March 14, 2017: A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continued for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

A report into the circumstances surrounding the Rescue 116 helicopter crash which claimed the lives of four crew members is at an “advanced stage”.

A lengthy investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has been ongoing for the past two years following the tragic collision on March 14, 2017.

The four crew, pilot Dara Fitzpatrick, co-pilot Mark Duffy, winchman Ciaran Smith and winch operator Paul Ormsby died after their Irish Coast Guard helicopter collided with Black Rock island off the Mayo coast.

Today the AAIU released an interim statement in relation to its significant probe, in which it said that a draft report “is at an advanced stage.”

Investigators have also said they will not be releasing a detailed interim statement on the anniversary as this would detract from their ongoing work.

The AAIU are required to release an interim statement on the incident’s anniversary if the final report into an air accident investigation cannot be made public within 12 months.

“Rather than preparing another detailed Interim Statement, which would detract from the ongoing work of preparing the Draft Report, the Investigation is focusing its efforts on finalising the Draft Report,” the AAIU said.

“Once finalised, the Draft Report will be circulated, in confidence, to interested parties as soon as possible. Accordingly, a detailed Interim Statement is not being issued on the occasion of the second anniversary of this accident.”

The investigation team previously made a number of recommendations following a preliminary report in April 2017.

In September, Transport Minister Shane Ross called for the “speedy implementation” of these recommendations to address discrepancies in the oversight of Search and Rescue operations in Ireland.

In total 12 recommendations were made in the report- ‘Review of Oversight of Search and Rescue (SAR) Aviation Operations in Ireland’-  which should be implemented on a short, medium or long term basis.

The report found that there are inconsistent formal documents on SAR framework which create “potential confusion about who is responsible for the safety oversight” for SAR operators.

It recommends that the Department of Transport “formally and clearly” assigns the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) with responsibility for the legal and safety oversight. This should be done urgently within a three-month period.

The report, which did not examine the circumstances surrounding the Rescue 116 crash, also found that the Irish Coast Guard did not have the "necessary knowledge"  to monitor regulations in the contract with CHCI, the company which provides the helicopters.

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