herald

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Navy divers hope to search Rescue 116 wreckage today for tragic crew members

Supt Healy at the briefing at Blacksod Lighthouse
Supt Healy at the briefing at Blacksod Lighthouse
Michael Ring (right) meets coast guard Michael Hurst

Navy divers will today be able to examine the wreckage of Rescue 116 for the first time in an attempt to locate three missing Irish Coast Guard members.

Senior investigators and rescue workers are confident that a significant operation will be put in place this morning on what is the 11th day of the large-scale search mission.

Weather conditions are also expected to be favourable over the weekend, which will allow for further dives to take place.

Speaking at a press briefing at Blacksod Lighthouse last night, Superintendent Tony Healy said recordings of the wreckage, taken by an underwater robot, were being analysed to determine if the three crewmen were on board.

"We had two clear goals today. One was in relation to the ROV [remotely operated vehicle] descending at the bottom this morning to clear the site to enable the navy divers to do a dive," Supt Healy said.

"The second was to do more underwater searching with the ROV and we're in the process of analysing that data."

Signal

The senior garda stated that all objectives had been met as part of the search, which included detecting a signal from the aircraft's flight recorder.

The underwater robot was deployed for a number of hours yesterday afternoon, when it carried out further examinations of the main section of the aircraft's wreckage.

The ROV, named the Holland 1, was deployed from the Granuaile and inspected the Rescue 116 remains some 40m underwater and 60m south-east of the lighthouse.

The high-tech machine is equipped with high-definition cameras, which transmit a live feed to the ROV operators aboard the Grainuaile.

Investigators believe the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter's tail section glanced off rocks on the west of Blackrock island before crashing into the sea 12km off the Co Mayo coast.

Rescue workers have stated the priority is the recovery of the three crew members - Captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Ciaran Smith and winchman Paul Ormsby.

The fourth crew member and pilot, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, was recovered in a critical condition on the night of the crash but later pronounced dead.

Once the missing men are accounted for, the operation will focus on collecting the helicopter's flight recorder, commonly known as the "black box".

The recovery of this device will assist investigators in establishing what led to the Rescue 116 helicopter colliding with Blackrock island.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe met with rescue and navy personnel aboard the LE Samuel Beckett, where he was briefed on the ongoing operation.

Mr Kehoe was joined by Minister for Regional Economic Development and local TD Michael Ring.

"The people that are putting their lives at risk going out on the boats, the people that have gone out searching the last number of days. I want to compliment this community," said Mr Ring.

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