Coastguard helicopter back in operation following incident off Kerry

‘Hard fault’ identified as cause of warning light

The incident started early on Sunday morning when the coastguard was responding to a distress call involving an injured fisherman aboard the French Albator-2, northwest of Dingle. File photograph: The Irish Times

The incident started early on Sunday morning when the coastguard was responding to a distress call involving an injured fisherman aboard the French Albator-2, northwest of Dingle. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter which was forced to abandon a maritime rescue on Sunday is now back in operation.

The Sikorsky S-92 aircraft was evacuating an injured fisherman from a trawler off the coast of Kerry when a warning light appeared in the cockpit.

It was forced to reroute immediately to the closest landing spot, at Valentia coast guard station, leaving its winchman and the fisherman aboard the boat.

They were later picked up by another coastguard helicopter from Waterford.

An engineering team was dispatched to Valentia on Sunday afternoon to investigate the cause of the fault.

A coastguard spokeswoman said the fault had since been identified and fixed. She said it was a “hard fault issue” which “activated the caution light”.

The helicopter was flown back to its Shannon base from Valentia on Sunday evening and is “fully operational,” she said.

A back-up helicopter at the Shannon base had been briefly activated while the aircraft was being examined and the coastguard said there was no disruption to search-and-rescue operations.

Distress call

The incident started early on Sunday morning when the coastguard was responding to a distress call involving an injured fisherman aboard the French Albator-2, northwest of Dingle.

At about 5.45am the helicopter had lowered its winchman on to 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,” the coastguard said. It travelled at slow speed to Valentia coastguard station.

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

“Thankfully they were not needed,” an Air Corps spokesman said. The helicopter landed safety at Valentia 30 minutes later. Local maritime search-and-rescue units were also alerted as a precautionary measure, the coastguard said.

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