'We need help of fishermen to find missing crew and end our nightmare'
The families of the missing Irish Coast Guard members of Rescue 116 are appealing to local fishermen to use their knowledge of the hazardous sea conditions off the west coast to help "bring their boys home".
Crewmen Ciarán Smith (38) and Paul Ormsby (53) have still not been found since their Rescue 116 helicopter crashed into Black Rock island in the early hours of March 14.
Rescue teams had hoped that the men were either in or near the aircraft's wreckage on the seabed, but following a salvage operation of the helicopter on Sunday afternoon there were no signs of the two.
Yesterday, on the 21st day of the large-scale search operation, the sister of Mr Smith appealed for local fishermen to help efforts to find him and his colleague Mr Ormsby.
Orla Smith also described the tragedy as a "living nightmare", but added that her family were drawing strength from the local community.
"To all fishing vessels big and small. From Achill Island to Aran Mór. We are appealing to them to please come to help us now. We need them, we need their knowledge and we need them in the ongoing efforts to find Ciarán and Paul," she told the Irish Independent.
"We need them and we need their help. We want them to go out and look in a co-ordinated fashion.
"It is a living nightmare for all of us. For all of my family and Paul Ormsby's family it is a living nightmare.
"We're doing our best to keep going, to stay as strong as possible and to stay as positive as we can.
"But it is tough, it is really, really tough. We need those boys home now. We really do.
"My parents need them home, my sister-in-law needs him home. My nieces need him home. They have to come home now."
Mr Smith, a father of three young girls aged 12, 10 and seven, was due to celebrate his 39th birthday this Sunday.
Surface and shoreline searches are expected to continue throughout the week, but bad weather will again prevent more extensive operations from being carried out.
A Naval Service dive team was frequently used to help the search, while a dive team from the Garda Water Unit was also used to search the wider perimeter of the crash site.
Preliminary inspections carried out by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) indicate there were no mechanical anomalies with the Irish Coast Guard helicopter before the fatal crash.
Chief inspector with the AAIU Jurgen Whyte said the focus would now shift to the operational aspects of the aircraft and journey, adding that the investigation was "a long way" from closing.
The body of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick (45) was recovered in the immediate aftermath of the fatal crash, while Captain Mark Duffy (51) was taken from the aircraft's cockpit on Sunday, March 26.