JOINING THE SEARCH Seán and Orla Smith, whose brother Ciaran is missing since the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 116 crashed at Black Rock Lighthouse, wait at Ballyglass Pier, Belmullet to board a fishing boat and join the Search. Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus
ROV role finishes as search is scaled back slightly
THE search for the missing crew members of Rescue 116 continues but has been scaled back slightly after the Marine Institute’s remotely operated vehicle concluded its extensive survey of the wreckage.
The bodies of winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith have yet to be recovered four weeks after the Coast Guard helicopter R116 crashed into Blackrock Island off the Blacksod coast on March 14.
The remotely operated vehicle (ROV) had been surveying the area around the wreckage some 40 metres below sea level close to the island for a number of weeks. The bodies of Captain Mark Duffy and Captain Dara Fitzpatrick were discovered but despite an extensive search around the wreckage involving garda and naval divers, the bodies of the two winchmen have yet to be discovered.
The role of the ROV concluded yesterday (Monday) afternoon and departed Blacksod Bay along with the Gránuaile which returned to Galway after a number of weeks involved in the search.
The Air Accident Investigation Unit and An Garda Síochána in conjunction with Coast Guard expressed their sincere appreciation to the Commissioners of Irish Lights and Marine Institute for their part in the search.
Superintendent Tony Healy confirmed that the Garda water unit would conduct diving searches in the vicinity of Blackrock Lighthouse as soon as wind and tidal conditions are considered suitable.
He also confirmed that he had requested Coast Guard and Civil Defence volunteers to continue with targeted searches of coastal areas and monitoring of specific areas of interest.
Gerard O’Flynn from the Coast Guard thanked all the statutory and voluntary organisations for their unstinting support over the past four weeks, paying special thanks to Coast Guard, RNLI and Civil Defence volunteers and Defence Forces assets including naval divers, ships and Air Corps.
One of the largest sea search operations in Irish maritime history which included up to 120 vessels failed to locate the bodies over the weekend. Over 8,500 square kilometres of sea from Blacksod Bay to Donegal was extensively searched by 110 fishing vessels along with RNLI lifeboats, Irish Coast Guard, Garda and Irish Underwater Council rigid inflatable boats.
Orla Smith and Seán Smith, siblings of Ciarán Smith were among those who took part in the sea search aboard the Éire Óg, which is part of the Ballyglass inshore fleet. While they did not find their brother, Ms Smith said the massive effort put in by the fishermen was very heartening.
Tributes were paid to the four crew members of R116 at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council. Cllr Michael Holmes said he knew Captain Mark Duffy when he worked for a previous employer and told how he had once airlifted his own son to hospital.
“The late Mark Duffy, I knew personally ... in a matter of fact he brought my own son to Beaumont Hospital on Christmas night once and I will never forget that. To think those people have saved so many lives and brought hope and joy to so many families right around the country and in one clink they are gone. I hope and pray the two remaining bodies will be recovered,” he said.
The councillors also praised the efforts of all the rescue services and volunteers and particularly to the local community.