Interim report into Rescue 116 crash recommends review of search and rescue operations

Interim report into Rescue 116 crash recommends review of search and rescue operations

A thorough review of all search and rescue aviation operations has been recommended by an interim report into the crash of the Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter off the coast of Mayo last March.

The helicopter came down near Blackrock Island off the Mayo coast on March 14 last year with the loss of all four crew members.

Families and friends of Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith held a special mass and wreath laying ceremony in their memory on Wednesday.

The bodies of captains Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy's were recovered following the crash. However, the bodies of winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciarán Smith have not been located.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit's interim statement into the crash says a review should be carried out to ensure effective, continuous and comprehensive oversight of all aspects of search and rescue aviation operations.

The report published today also recommends that Sikorsky, the manufacturer of the S-92A helicopter used by the Coast Guard, should make the necessary updates or modifications to the aircraft recording systems to ensure that the latitude and longitude information recorded on its Flight Data Recorder reflects the most accurate position information available during all flight types and missions.

Helicopter service company CHC should conduct a review of its operations to ensure they are sufficiently robust to maximize safety.

In May last year, RFD Beaufort reviewed the operation of the beacon in the lifejackets used by Coast Guard crew members and made a number of changes in June with regard to the installation of the beacon, the routing of cables and positioning of the antennas.

The AAIU had previously confirmed that it has established that the Sikorksy S-92's internal warning system did not include the 80m (262ft) high rocky outcrop of Blackrock and its working lighthouse in its database.

The search and rescue helicopter crashed after hitting the island while coming back from supporting a mission for an injured trawlerman out in the Atlantic.

The AAIU preliminary report stated that Rescue 116's Honeywell Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), which alerts pilots both visually and aurally to imminent danger from terrain and obstacles, does not include either the terrain of Blackrock or the lighthouse.

CHC Ireland, which operates the Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters, has reviewed and re-evaluated all route guides used in the aircraft.

The review takes into consideration obstacle heights and positions, terrain clearance, vertical profile, positions of waypoints in relation to obstacles and EGPWS database terrain and obstacle limitations.

CHC Ireland said the new route guide will be formally included in the Operations Manual (OMC) at the end of this month.

- Digital Desk

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