Wednesday 19 December 2018

Family of missing Rescue 116 crew hold candle-lit vigil for loved ones

Locals, family and friends of the crew hold a vigil
Locals, family and friends of the crew hold a vigil

Family members of the missing Rescue 116 crew last night gathered for a touching candle-lit vigil.

Around 200 locals joined with the family and friends of the rescue workers, near Blacksod, Co Mayo.

It came after some progress was made in the effort to retrieve the aircraft, with the deployment of an underwater robot to the crash site.

The remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the Holland 1, was launched shortly after 8pm last night from the Graunaile vessel.

It marks progress following days of waiting for a break in the weather to access the site.

The ROV was only able to operate for a short period of time.

The underwater robot, used to examine the wreckage of the helicopter, is expected to be deployed again in shallow waters shortly after 7am today.


A 13-man Naval Service diving team is on standby with full equipment, including a decompression chamber, on board if required.

The primary focus of the operation is the recovery of three missing crewmen - Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby - while investigators also hope to recover the black box.

Extensive mapping has also been carried out by the Marine Institute to assist the search team and ensure no dangerous obstacles impede the operation.

It previously emerged that the aircraft had collided with the western section of the Black Rock, 12km off the Mayo coast. Jurgen Whyte, chief inspector of the Air Accident Investigation Unit, said investigators had to abseil the surface of the rock to examine the wreckage.

"We were out with the Air Corps helicopter and two rope specialists from the Defence Force army helped us abseil down the side of the cliff," Mr Whyte told the Herald.

"There, we identified more items of wreckage that are indication of impact, but as of yet we have not identified the actual impact point.

"The aircraft tail made contact with some solid structure, more likely a rock in a placement at a glancing blow.

"From there, we are of the opinion that the aircraft entered the water at some distance later."

However, investigators have not yet determined what caused the collision.

The helicopter lost contact shortly before 1am last Tuesday. Capt Duffy and Winchmen Smith and Ormsby have not been located.

The aircraft's pilot, Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, was recovered but later pronounced dead.

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