Gardaí have said it may be some days before positive confirmation that a helmet and lifejacket retrieved off the north Mayo coast last week belongs to missing Rescue 116 winch operator Paul Ormsby.
The helmet and lifejacket, attached with communications equipment, were recovered in tangle nets by a Mayo fishing vessel about a nautical mile north of Achill head last Thursday, July 12th.
The bodies of Mr Ormsby and his Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew colleague, Ciarán Smith, are still missing, 16 months after the helicopter crash which claimed the lives of four crew – pilots Capt Dara Fitzpatrick and Capt Mark Duffy and the winch team – off Blackrock island in north Mayo.
The equipment was found in a net hauled from about 66 metres of water off Achill head last week, and taken to Belmullet Garda Station for further examination.
A helmet and inflated lifejacket, which was confirmed as belonging to Ciarán Smith, was found on the west side of Elly Bay last September. It is understood that the lifejacket retrieved last week was not inflated.
The body of Capt Fitzpatrick was recovered within hours of the crash,and Capt Mark Duffy’s body was taken from the helicopter wreckage by Naval Service divers in about 36 metres of water some 100m from Blackrock island on March 26th.
A preliminary inquest in north Mayo last April has issued death certificates for all four crew, and has adjourned, pending continuing investigations.
The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) is still compiling its final report into the crash.
Its preliminary report published within a month of the crash focused on anomalies in the flight navigational information, while a separate ground proximity warning system, which is not a primary navigational tool, did not have Blackrock island in its database.
The preliminary report also identified a flaw in the installation of satellite locator beacons on crew lifejackets.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross has commissioned a review of search and rescue aviation operations in the State, following a recommendation by the AAIU’s interim report earlier this year. The interim report also recommended that CHC Ireland – the air crew’s employer – should review its safety management systems.
A separate Garda/Health and Safety Authority investigation is also continuing.