Sunday 17 December 2017

Search is scaled back but still ongoing, says Irish Coast Guard

An Irish Coast Guard Helicopter lifts off from Blacksod Pier Picture: Steve Humphreys
An Irish Coast Guard Helicopter lifts off from Blacksod Pier Picture: Steve Humphreys
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Fishermen in counties Mayo and Donegal are being asked to remain vigilant after the search for the missing Rescue 116 crew members was scaled back last week.

Searches remain ongoing, with Coast Guard and Civil Defence volunteers still actively checking the Mayo coastline this weekend where debris has previously washed up.

A garda aqua unit remains on-site in Blacksod and will be carrying out dives around Black Rock island, where the rescue helicopter went down a month ago, when weather and tidal conditions allow.

The Coast Guard has said it will continue looking for the bodies of the missing crewmen.

Operations manager Gerard O'Flynn told the Sunday Independent he was not willing to put a timeline on the ongoing operation to locate missing men. "Obviously the high intensity work at sea was scaled back last week and resources have been scaled back somewhat," he said.

"Shoreline searches will remain ongoing with teams from the Coast Guard and the Civil Defence combing shorelines and targeting areas where debris has been found recently. You cannot put a timeline on something like this and we will keep going. Searches will continue and are ongoing."

The Irish Lights vessel the Granuaile and its remotely operated vehicle departed Blacksod last week after almost a month of helping in the search for the downed helicopter and the crewmen.

Targeted searches will continue in the area but fishermen are being reminded they remain important to the future search efforts.

Trawlers have already played a key role in the month since the helicopter went missing on March 14.

A boat from Killybegs, Co Donegal, was successful in locating a flare box and equipment from the helicopter which is usually stored under the winchman's seat.

Its crew was unaware of the discovery until they had landed back at port and discovered the equipment tangled in its fishing nets.

More than 100 boats also took part in an extensive search off the coast last week and Mr O'Flynn has asked them to remain aware of debris as they go about their work.

"We are asking all boats in the area to remain vigilant," he said. "A garda team of divers remains in the area too and they are available to assist."

Sunday Independent

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