Search for R116 missing crew to resume using special nets

The search for the remaining two crew members of Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 will resume today after bad weather hampered efforts over the weekend.

Ciaran Smith and Paul Orsmby.

The rescue helicopter crashed into Black Rock island and lighthouse off the coast of Mayo in the early hours of March 14, claiming the lives of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy. Crew members Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby are still missing.

A multi-agency search operation, using nets, was planned for the weekend, however, according to Superintendent Tony Healy of Belmullet it had to be called off because of the weather.

The Irish Coast Guard released a statement on Friday detailing the five-day operation.

“The Irish Coast Guard, Canadian Helicopter Corporation, An Garda Síochána, Belcross Enterprises (Marine contractors) and with the Marine Institute in support will begin a five-day trawling campaign using specially modified nets.

“The nets were provided for free by Swan Net-Gundry Ltd based out of Killybegs and will be deployed from a medium-sized fishing vessel called the MFV Westbound,” read the statement.

While the original search operation went on for a month and a second volunteer-led one also took place, including more than 50 local fishing vessels, the weekend’s search would have been the most substantial since May.

The preliminary report into the crash showed that Black Rock lighthouse and the island it stands on were not included in a navigational database used by helicopter R116.

While the new net search search, which is headed by An Garda Síochána, was due to take place over five days it is not known how long will it go on for as a result of the weather delays.

Meanwhile, a four-day cycle to the rescue bases in Dublin, Sligo, Shannon and Waterford, is to take place on September 8, to pay tribute to the crew of R116 and Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Luca, who died in a search operation off Co Clare in September 2016.

The event is called ‘4 Days in September — A Tribute,’ and each leg of the cycle will honour a different crew member.

“The group of friends (who organised the cycle) are all members of the emergency services who work with the Irish Coast Guard on a daily basis and who would have been friendly with some of the helicopter crew who lost their lives,” reads a statement by the organisers.

The 800km cycle will leave from Waterford Airport and head for Dublin Airport, then Sligo and Shannon Airports before returning to Waterford on September 11.

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