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Monday 23 April 2018

'We're gone' - last words from cockpit of Rescue 116 as report reveals 'rapid pitch up'

Report indicates the on board warning system did not have data related to Blackrock island

The last recorded audio data on Rescue 116
A selection of recorded data from the final seconds of FDR data
The LE James Joyce alongside the Granuaile off the Blacksod Pier. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The wreckage of Rescue 116 which crashed off the west of Ireland
The wreckage of R116 passes through the streets of Galway on its way to the Gormanston air accident investigation facility. Photo: Steve Humphreys
A Coast Guard Helicopter joining the Rescue 116 Wreckage Recovery at Blackrock, Belmullet, Co. Mayo. Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus
Fishing boats join the search for missing Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 116 crew members Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby Photo: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A preliminary report into downed Rescue 116 has revealed the coastguard helicopter 'pitched up rapidly' in its final seconds.

The report also revealed that the helicopter's on board warning system did not have data related to Blackrock island.

An obstacle data base on their system did not list the lighthouse on Blackrock, and the terrain database did not have information on the terrain on the island.

Audio data revealed Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and co-pilot Mark Duffy had discussed earlier in the flight that it had been a long time since either had visited the island.

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

It showed that the helicopter was in stable level flight at 200 feet on a track towards Blackrock in the moments before impact.

The warning system provided a callout of “ALTITUDE, ALTITUDE” 26 seconds prior to the initial impact.

A selection of recorded data from the final seconds of FDR data
A selection of recorded data from the final seconds of FDR data

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick identified the reason for the alert as a small island below the helicopter which she said was “just a small little island…”.

At the time of the aural alert FDR data placed the Helicopter in the vicinity of an outcrop of two rocks, Carrickduff and Carrickad, which are located approximately 0.65 nm to the west of the Blackrock.

The last recorded audio data on Rescue 116
The last recorded audio data on Rescue 116

In the final seconds, the helicopter pitched up rapidly, impacted with terrain at the western end of Blackrock and 'departed from controlled flight', the report states.

Read more: Full transcript of audio from Rescue 116 

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

Audio from the black box revealed one of the crew members seated in the rear of the helicopter - either Paul Ormsby or Ciaran Smith -  identified an island in front of the helicopter, and recommended a right turn:

"K…looking at an island just in, directly ahead of us now guys, you want to come right", he said.

The commander, Dara Fitzpatrick, responded: "OK, come right just confirm?"

The crew member then said to turn "about 20 degrees right".

The commander then asked the co-pilot, Mark Duffy, to 'select heading', which he confirmed by replying 'Roger'.

Just two second later the rear crew member was recorded as saying: "come right now, come right, COME RIGHT."

The last recorded audio from the flight deck was the co-pilot saying "we're gone".

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