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TDs call for accountability for R116 families

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SHORE SEARCH Members of the Irish Coast Guard searching the shore near Blacksod in the aftermath of the R116 crash. Pic: Keith Heneghan

‘Messed around’ Ballyglass Coast Guard needs permanent, ‘fit for purpose’ base – Calleary


Anton McNulty

TWO Mayo TDs have called for the findings and safety recommendations made following the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s investigation into the Rescue 116 tragedy to be implemented in full.
A Dáil debate took place last week on the unit’s final report into the R116 crash, during which Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan said he fully accepts the report’s 42 recommendations.
Released earlier this month, the report concluded that the tragedy was an ‘organisational accident’.
Minister Ryan outlined a number of measures taken by the Department of Transport to enhance search-and-rescue operations since the crash.
The report was commissioned following the R116 helicopter crash in March 2017 when the aircraft hit Blackrock Island in Blacksod Bay.
All four crew members, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, Winch Operator Paul Ormsby and Winchman Ciarán Smith, lost their lives in the crash. The bodies of Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith were never recovered and remain lost at sea.

Lessons
Mayo TDs Dara Calleary and Rose Conway-Walsh were among the TDs who spoke during the Dáil debate.
Both said lessons must be learned from the tragedy and called for the recommendations to be implemented in full.
Deputy Conway-Walsh, the first to speak, said that there must be accountability within the system.
“The 42 recommendations must be implemented, and I am glad to hear the Minister detail how that will happen. Those accountable for overseeing the implementation of these recommendations must be known because we must have accountability within the system.
“It is vital that lessons are learned from what has occurred here, to ensure all crews and volunteers can work safely and have confidence that they are protected while they go about the important work they do.
“There must be robust and thorough action from the minister, the Department of Transport, the Irish Coast Guard and those involved with SAR (search-and-rescue) operations to ensure the measures are put in place. Crews must have confidence in their working environment and the public must have confidence in that environment too,” she said.

Service to the State
Ballina-based TD Dara Calleary said that the crew of R116 died in service to the State and their families deserve accountability.
“The families of those who sadly died in service to the State deserve, at the very least, accountability for the failings that this report has unmasked. The lives of Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby are forever in the hearts of the people of Erris and Mayo and their families are also in our hearts. Their families are entitled to ask the questions that need answers and they deserve accountability. They have shown enormous strength and courage and they deserve respect, and there needs to be ongoing engagement with them.”
Deputy Calleary also said he believes the State should run the search-and-rescue services and that they should not be contracted out to a private company to be run for profit.

Praise
Both deputies praised the response of the Erris community in the aftermath of the crash, saying that the crew of R116 will forever be in the hearts of the local people.
They also praised the work of the volunteers in the local Coast Guard unit and RNLI, with Deputy Calleary calling for a permanent station for the Ballyglass Coast Guard unit.
“The Ballyglass Coast Guard, with which Deputy Conway-Walsh works closely, is a phenomenal unit and needs a permanent base. It carried out the most extraordinary work during that time, although it does so all the time.
“It has been messed around by various State agencies in trying to get a permanent functioning base that is fit for purpose. The same goes for the RNLI and all the units in that area,” he said.

 

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