herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Washed-up lifejacket, helmet could belong to lost winchman Ciaran

Civil Defence personnel and volunteers have searched the coast every day since the tragedy
Civil Defence personnel and volunteers have searched the coast every day since the tragedy
Ciaran Smith

Officials are trying to determine if a helmet and lifejacket washed up on the west coast belong to missing Rescue 116 helicopter crew member Ciaran Smith.

Gardai said the items were found by a member of the public in the townland of Elly, near Clogher, Co Mayo, at around 8am on Saturday.

Crashed

Tests will be carried out to see if they belong to the missing winchman (38).

No traces of Mr Smith or his colleague Paul Ormsby (53) have been found since their coast guard helicopter crashed into Blackrock Island, off Mayo, in the early hours of March 14.

The remains of their colleagues - Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy - were recovered in the aftermath of the tragedy.

A number of search operations have been carried out since the crash, but the remains of Mr Smith and Mr Ormsby have not been located.

The latest find was the first major breakthrough in the past few months and is likely to lead to further searches in the area.

A garda spokesman said the items were handed over to them.

"They would appear to have been those of Ciaran Smith. However, tests need to be carried out to establish this definitively," a source said.

Mr Smith's sister, Orla, previously spoke of the ongoing torment for her family. "It's a living nightmare for all of us," she said.

"For all of my family and Paul Ormsby's family, it's 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's tough - it's really, really tough.

"We need those boys home now. We really do."

Database

An inquiry is continuing to determine how Rescue 116 went down.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit has established that the Sikorksy S-92's internal warning system did not include the 80-metre-high rocky outcrop and its working lighthouse in its database.

The search and rescue helicopter crashed after hitting Blackrock Island while coming back from supporting a mission for an injured trawlerman in the Atlantic.

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