DIFFICULT TIME Coast Guard members involved in the search at Blacksod. Pic: Keith Heneghan
Coast Guard hopes to start dives after Celtic Voyager locates large debris with seabed-scanning equipment
Rescue workers searching for the missing three crew members of Rescue Helicopter 116 hope to start dives after large debris believed to be from the helicopter was located on the sea floor.
Marine Institute staff joined the search for the missing Coast Guard members this morning (Wednesday), and are using specialist multibeam sonar equipment onboard the national research vessel RV Celtic Voyager.
The equipment is able to scan the seabed and they are concentrating its efforts around Blackrock Lighthouse, located approximately 12km from the Blacksod Coast, and the last known location of R116.
A spokesperson for the Irish Coast Guard explained that the Celtic Explorer was doing good work and there was a possible visual of a large part of debris in the location where the helicopter is believed to have crashed.
Navy and Garda divers are at the scene, and it is hoped they will be able to take part in exploratory dives around this location for the first time before nightfall. Sea conditions are said to be favourable at the moment but are liable to change.
Debris was also located on Blackrock Lighthouse, but a Coast Guard spokesperson said it was too early to speculate on how the debris ended up there.
The search operation was launched after the Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter 116 lost contact with Malin Head Station shortly after 1am on Tuesday morning.
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who was the pilot, was recovered at sea but died shortly after she was airlifted to Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar.
Efforts to locate her fellow crew members – Captain Mark Duffy, winchman Ciarán Smith and winch operator Paul Ormsby is ongoing.
The LÉ Eithne and LÉ Róisín, along with the Achill and Ballyglass Lifeboats and local fishing vessels, continue to search the area around Blackrock Lighthouse. A large number of debris from R116 continues to be picked up and brought ashore, where it will be investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Unit.
Members of the Ballyglass and Achill Coast Guard units are also searching the shores around the Mullet Peninsula and the northern part of Achill Island.
Meanwhile, Judge Mary Devins paid tribute to the late Captain Dara Fiztpatrick at the start of this morning’s sitting of Castlebar District Court.
She said Captain Fitzpatrick ‘gave everything, she gave her life in public service’. She described her as a ‘great woman’ and said those who serve like Captain Fitzpatrick are all the more commendable ‘in this day of take, take, take’.