Search continues for missing helicopter crew
An extensive air and sea search is taking place off the Blacksod coast for the missing crew members of the Coast Guard’s Rescue 116 helicopter.
One member of the Dublin-based rescue helicopter was picked up in a critical condition by the Achill lifeboat at approximately 7.30am.
A spokesperson for the Coast Guard said they were ‘not holding out much hope’ for the crew member or the remaining missing members.
The helicopter was providing top cover for the sligo-based R118 helicopter, which was involved in an medical evacuation of a fisherman over 100 miles off the Mayo coast.
The R116 was preparing to refuel at Blacksod lighthouse when all contact was lost and disappeared from radar. Its last known location was approximately eight miles off the coast at Blackrock lighthouse.
Once contact was lost, an extensive search and rescue was put in place, involving the Achill and Ballyglass lifeboats along with R118.
Debris from the helicopter, including the aircraft door, have been located close to the aircraft’s last known location.
The sea search includes the navy vessel LÉ Róisín, the Achill and Ballyglass Lifeboats as well as up to six fishing vessels.
The air search involves the Sligo-based and Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopters, as well as the Air Corp rescue aircraft.
The Ballyglass Coast Guard unit is involved in an extensive search along the Blacksod coastline, while the Achill Coast Guard unit is also searching around the Achill coast.
A spokesperson for the Irish Coast Guard told The Mayo News that an Incident Command Centre has been set up on the hill at Faulmore overlooking the coast. It is believed that the current may wash debris north towards the Inis Ge Islands, and efforts are being concentrated around that location.
Mystery still surrounds the cause of the helicopter crash. The Sikorsky S-92 is a state-of-the-art aircraft also used by the UK Coast Guard. The idea that the helicopter ran out of fuel has been ruled out.
There was no mayday call or any distress communication from the helicopter before contact was suddenly lost.
Personnel from the Air Accident Investigation Unit are on location, and it is hoped some of the debris will be brought ashore before the evening.
The weather conditions at the time were considered hazardous for the Sikorsky to operate in.
The current weather conditions at sea are at Force Five, but the weather is set to deteriorate, which could hamper further rescue efforts.