Rescue 116 crash: Salvage company to assist search for crew

Irish Coast Guard winch team remain missing after incident off the Co Mayo coast

The funeral of Captain Mark Duffy, who died when Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter crashed off the coast of Mayo, has taken place in Blackrock , Co. Louth. Video: Barry Cronin

 

Irish salvage experts have been hired to assist in the seabed search for two missing airmen from the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 which crashed 18 days ago off the north Mayo coast.

An ocean-going tug was en route to Blacksod from west Cork on Thursday as part of continued efforts to recover the Sikorsky S-92’s winch operator Paul Ormsby (53) and winchman Ciaran Smith (38).

“The absolute priority is to find the two casualties,” Irish Coast Guard operations manager Gerard O’Flynn said.

Naval Service divers will work with the salvage company – Atlantic Towage and Marine – which was successful in recovering the €18 million racing yacht Rambler 100 after it lost its keel and capsized during the 2011 Fastnet race, and the tall ship Astrid which ran up on rocks off Kinsale, Co Cork, in 2013.

The tug, the Ocean Challenger, will undertake a direct lift, rather than using airbag flotation, to right the section of wreckage which is lying about 40m underwater off the south-east tip of Blackrock island, 13km west of the Mullet peninsula.

It is understood the strength of Spring tides, currents and swell made it impossible to inflate the airbag deployed by the dive team earlier this week.

The body of senior pilot Capt Dara Fitzpatrick (45) was found in the early hours of March 14th and the body of her co-pilot Capt Mark Duffy (51) was recovered from the helicopter’s cockpit last Sunday by the Naval Service dive team.

Safety

The Irish Coast Guard has reiterated that safety is paramount.

Two club divers have previously lost their lives in separate rescue and recovery incidents – Michael Heffernan during the Belderg cave rescue in north Mayo in October 1997, and Billy O’Connor while searching for the skipper of a fishing vessel off the Wexford coast in 2005.

The Lost at Sea Tragedies (LAST) group, which is chaired by fishing vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha, has offered support for the search and recovery effort.

Ms Uí Aodha, whose husband Michael died when the Tit Bonhomme sank in west Cork in 2012, said the fishing industry appreciated the work which the Irish Coast Guard undertook, and also recognised the importance of recovering loved ones.

“The Irish Coast Guard is there for us, and we would like to return this, and also offer any support required to local fishermen who are assisting,” Ms Uí Aodha said.

RNLI lifeboat volunteers have also travelled from Donaghadee, Co Down,Valentia, Co Kerry, and Rosslare, Co Wexford, to crew the Mayo Achill and Ballyglass and Sligo and Bundoran lifeboats which were at sea again on Thursday.

Naval Service patrol ship LE James Joyce has replaced the LE Samuel Beckett as on-scene co-ordinator, and the Marine Institute’s remotely-operated vehicle will still be deployed from Irish Lights ship Granuaile during the lift.