Rescue 116: Donegal trawler resumes search around Blackrock island

Settled conditions help MFV Westbound search for crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith

Irish Coast Guard Dublin-based helicopter Rescue 116 on a call-out with the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team in Co Down on May 29th, 2016. Photograph: Mourne Mountain Rescue Team

Irish Coast Guard Dublin-based helicopter Rescue 116 on a call-out with the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team in Co Down on May 29th, 2016. Photograph: Mourne Mountain Rescue Team

 

The Garda-led search for two missing Irish Coast Guard airmen is continuing with a Donegal fishing vessel working areas of the seabed around Blackrock island off north Co Mayo.

Swell around the rock where the Rescue 116 helicopter crashed delayed efforts on Monday, but Supt Tony Healy of Belmullet Garda station said conditions had settled later in the evening.

CHC Ireland, employer of the four air crew who died in the crash on March 14th, is sponsoring use of a Killybegs fishing vessel MFV Westbound which has been fitted with a “bespoke” trawl.

Winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith are now four months missing, since their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed off Blackrock island, claiming the lives of the two men and colleagues Capt Dara Fitzpatrick and Capt Mark Duffy.

Supt Healy said the primary goal is recovery of the missing crew, but the effort was also “cognisant of the ongoing Garda investigation”.

The area has been extensively mapped, and the fresh search had been planned for some time, he confirmed.

Targeted shore scans

Garda Water Unit divers have travelled to Blacksod for the search, and Irish Coast Guard units are on standby for further aerial and targeted shore scans.

The 16-metre MFV Westbound has been fitted with specially modified gear donated by the international netmakers Swan Net-Gundry of Killybegs.

The effort faces a number of challenges, as the approach to the island is marked by hazardous geological formations. Weather may also break mid-week.

The Irish Lights ship Granuaile is due to return at the weekend with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) ,which will focus on “areas of interest” identified in the trawling. The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has said the planned operation was a matter for the Garda, as it related to “the continued search for the two missing crew members and the gathering of evidence”.

An AAIU spokesman said it remained on standby to assist the Garda if so required.

“Later in the week, there may be opportunities to conduct ROV operations which the AAIU will attend,and if, during the search, opportunities arise to list specific items of wreckage, the AAIU will do so,”the spokesman said.