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Fresh search to focus on Blackrock Island


CRASH SCENE Army mountaineers and Garda technical experts are to search Blackrock Island for the missing R116 crew members.  Pic: Keith Heneghan/Phocus

Anton McNulty

A NEW search of Blackrock Island is to take place over the next two days involving Army mountaineers and Garda technical experts in an effort to recover the bodies of missing Rescue 116 crew, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby.
A team of ten trained mountaineers is due to be flown out to the island by the Air Corps this morning (Thursday) along with Garda scene-of-crime examiners. The island is located 13km off the Blacksod coast, and the army and Garda personnel are to stay overnight to undertake a ‘360-degree’ survey of the rock.
A preliminary report into the accident found that R116 crashed into Blackrock Island at 12.46am on March 14, and that the land mass was not included in the database of the helicopter’s warning system.
The bodies of the two winch-men have yet to be recovered despite and extensive search of the sea and land around Blacksod Bay. The body of senior pilot, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was discovered in the water around the island shortly after the accident occurred, while the body of Captain Mark Duffy was recovered from the cockpit on March 26.
Naval and Garda divers are also returning to the island, where fresh dives of the wreckage are to take place over the coming days.
The combined effort aims to establish whether the winch-men were thrown out of the rear of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter when it struck the western end of the island, and follows a request for Defence Force assistance from Belmullet-based Garda Superintendent Tony Healy.
The search of the shorline around the Mayo coast continues to be undertaken by members of the Ballyglass Coast Guard unit along with assistance from other Coast Guard units and the Civil Defence, but the numbers involved have been scaled back.
Meanwhile, the the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has defended its decision to publish a transcript of the Rescue 116 helicopter’s final cockpit voice recording before it crashed. It comes after they were heavily criticised by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations, the European Cockpit Association and Irish Air Line Pilots’ Association (IALPA).
Captain Evan Cullen said the IALPA believed that there was ‘absolutely no justification for – or benefit from – publishing specifically the last two minutes of this flight, other than feeding a thirst for sensationalism’.
The AAIU said it was satisfied that it had ‘followed best international practice and national legislation regarding the issuance of the preliminary report’.
The unit said it had briefed the families of the four crew before the preliminary report was released last Thursday night. Its final report is expected to take some months to complete.

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