'We will not leave you. Help is on the way', coast guard tells grieving families of missing Rescue 116 crew
The Irish Coast Guard has issued an emotional statement four weeks on from losing four of their colleagues in the R116 helicopter crash, saying: "We will not leave you. Help is on the way."
Yesterday marked the one-month anniversary of the Rescue 116 helicopter crashing off the Mayo coast.
The remains of two of the crew - Captain Dara Fitzpatrick (45) and Captain Mark Duffy (51) - have been recovered.
Their two colleagues, winch operator Ciaran Smith (38) and winchman Paul Ormsby (53), are still missing.
In the statement, the Irish Coast Guard said that the rescue community had lost "six of its very finest" in the last six months.
This includes the Rescue 116 crew, coast guard volunteer Catriona Lucas (41) and chief crewman Daithi O Cearbhallain, who lost his life to illness on March 8.
"They were people that lived their lives day to day, ready to come to the aid of strangers at a moment's notice, and put themselves in harm's way, so others may live," the touching statement said.
"The search continues for missing crewmen Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith. We will not leave you. You are not alone. Help is on its way. Hold hope."
Niamh Fitzpatrick, the sister of Capt Fitzpatrick, said that her family were "devastated and distressed" for all of the families involved, adding that they did not wish to comment on the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report.
The family of the four crew members were briefed by investigators on the preliminary report before it was released publicly.
An interim review into the crash detailed the last words spoken by the Rescue 116 crew before they collided with Black Rock island.
The R116 crew - who were dispatched from their Dublin base to Co Mayo to help with a rescue operation - appeared to know what was happening in the final seconds before impact.
The transcript of the Cockpit Voice Recorder shows that co-pilot Mark Duffy said, "We're gone" seconds before the Sikorsky S-92 aircraft went down.
The last communication from the aircraft came at 12:46am, with Blacksod Lighthouse advising they had no communication with Rescue 116 at 1.08am.
A Mayday alert was issued by the Malin broadcast minutes later, and an extensive search and rescue operation was launched.
Examinations of the "black box" recorder and fuselage recovered show that the aircraft pitched upright rapidly seconds before the collision.
Investigators noted that communications between the crew members en route to Blacksod to refuel were "mission-focused and considered, with minimal extraneous conversation".
It is also stated that Capt Fitzpatrick, who was the commander on the mission, commented to the other crew members that, according to the report, "it had been a substantial period of time since she had previously landed at Blacksod".
"On one occasion, the commander asked the co-pilot [Capt Duffy] when he had last been into Blacksod and he indicated that he had not been there recently," the report stated.
Searches are continuing for the missing crew members but a large search effort involving over 100 vessels failed to locate them last weekend.