Coast Guard helicopter wreckage found at lighthouse

Poor weather hinders search for three missing Coast Guard crew off Mayo coast

Gerard O'Flynn Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Operations manager holds a press conference at Blacksod pier in County Mayo to outline details of the continuing search for members of the crew of Rescue116. Video: Dara MacDónaill

 

A significant section of the wreckage of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter has been found close to the lighthouse on Blackrock, 13km west of the north Mayo coast.

A team from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), and two British investigators spent 90 minutes yesterday on the isolated outcrop, which is close to the last known position of the helicopter.

Weather and sea conditions are continuing to hamper efforts to locate the three crew from the helicopter, which crashed during a rescue mission on Tuesday.

Rescue agencies are still hoping the bodies of the crew – co-pilot Capt Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciaran Smith – are with the wreckage of the helicopter.

The funeral of senior pilot Capt Dara Fitzpatrick (45) will take place in Glencullen, Dublin, tomorrow.

The helicopter had turned to approach Blacksod lighthouse for a routine refuelling when it lost communication. No Mayday was issued and no emergency locator beacons were picked up.

Medical evacuation

The Dublin-based crew had been tasked with providing support to a Sligo-based helicopter on a long-range medical evacuation.

Rescuers hope the signal from the “black box”, which was detected on Wednesday, will lead them to the location of the helicopter, if it is still within the fuselage.

A heavy swell around the lighthouse prevented efforts to pinpoint the flight recorder yesterday.

The Irish Lights tender Granuaile, which has a dynamic positioning system allowing it to operate in a heavy swell, is due into Blacksod Bay over the weekend to assist with the effort.

Shore searches co-ordinated by the Irish Coast Guard’s Ballyglass unit will continue today.

Irish Coast Guard Doolin volunteer Bernard Lucas, whose wife and experienced Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona died in a search off Co Clare last September, spent his second day walking the shoreline yesterday.