herald

Friday 28 April 2017

Local fishermen to join search for Rescue 116 crew

Smaller fishing vessels are being warned not to join this weekend’s search if sea conditions are not suitable
Smaller fishing vessels are being warned not to join this weekend’s search if sea conditions are not suitable

Local fishermen are coming together to help in the search for the two missing crew members of Rescue 116.

More than 60 boats from the west and north-west are expected to take part in a major operation this weekend in the hope of locating the helicopter's winch operator Ciaran Smith (38) and winchman Paul Ormsby (53).

The two Irish Coast Guard members have not yet been recovered from the sea near Blacksod, Co Mayo, where the helicopter went down.

The latest move comes after Mr Smith's sister called for local fishermen to join in the search.

Nightmare

"To all fishing vessels big and small, from Achill Island to Aran Mor, we are appealing to them to please come to help us now," Orla Smith told the Herald.

"We need them, we need their knowledge and we need them in the ongoing efforts to find Ciaran and Paul."

A flotilla of boats will spend the weekend searching for the two crew members, who have been missing since their helicopter crashed off the Mayo coast in the early hours of March 14.

However, smaller fishing vessels have been advised not to risk going to sea in unsuitable conditions.

It is hoped that the search operations, co-ordinated by the Irish Coast Guard, can be carried out tomorrow at first light.

In a statement, the Killybegs Fishing Organisation said safety was "paramount" and it did not want further tragedies to happen.

"We fully understand that a large number of vessels want to get involved in the search, but we would ask that fishermen do not risk going to sea in small vessels when the weather conditions are unsuitable," it said in a statement.

Ms Smith described recent weeks as "a living nightmare", but added that support from the local community had helped the families through a difficult time.

"It is a living nightmare for all of us. For all of my family and Paul Ormsby's family it is a living nightmare," she said.

An underwater robot was deployed yesterday to carry out exploratory searches of the area around the crash site near Blackrock Island.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) is expected to release its preliminary findings late next week.

Inspectors have already determined that the Sikorsky S-92 aircraft suffered no mechanical anomalies before it went down, but have yet to establish what caused the tragedy.

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