Air Corps craft placed on standby over fears Coast Guard helicopter would ditch in sea

Coast Guard craft leaves winch operator with injured fisherman over fear of sea crash

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter was forced to leave a crew member and an injured fisherman on a trawler off the coast of Kerry on Sunday after encountering mechanical trouble.

The Air Corps put its aircraft on standby amid fears Rescue 115, a Sikorsky S92 helicopter, would have to ditch in the sea on its way back to base.

The S92 was the same helicopter model involved in the Rescue 116 disaster in 2017, which resulted in the deaths of the four crew members aboard.

Rescue 115 was responding to a distress call on Sunday morning involving an injured fisherman aboard the French Albator-2, northwest of Dingle.


Cockpit light

At about 5.45am, the helicopter had lowered its winchman onto the vessel to prepare the patient for air evacuation when a warning light came on in the cockpit.

“In accordance with established procedures the crew diverted to land at the nearest suitable location,” a Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the Air Corps was alerted. Crews were called in and an AW139 helicopter and a Casa Maritime patrol aircraft were put on standby in Casement Aerodrome in case the Coast Guard helicopter had to ditch in the sea.

No injuries

“Thankfully they were not needed,” an Air Corps spokesman said. The helicopter landed at Valentia 30 minutes later.

Another Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 117, was then deployed from Waterford to pick up the winch operator and the fisherman. There were no injuries.

The Coast Guard said there would be no disruption to search and rescue services and that a spare helicopter at the Shannon base had been activated.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith died when their Sikorsky S92 helicopter crashed at Blackrock Island, 13km west of Blacksod, Co Mayo, in March 2017.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times