Updated: 15/03/17 : 05:49:41
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Recovery operation for flight crew resumes at first light

A full scale air, sea and shore search resumes at first light today for the three crew still missing from the Irish Coast Guard Sikorsky S-92 Dublin-based helicopter (R116) which crashed off the north Mayo coast early yesterday morning.

Members of the Irish Coast Guard were involved in a search operation to find the three missing men throughout yesterday, and were assisted by the RNLI, the Air Corps, the Defence Forces, as well as local fishing vessels.

At first light, Coast Guard rescue helicopters from Sligo and Shannon, Army Air Corps and fisheries protection aircraft will rejoin the recovery operation having been stood down as darkness fell last night.

The three missing crew have been named as chief pilot Mark Duffy from Dundalk, Co Louth and winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith (38) from north Co Dublin.

Throughout the night the naval vessels LÉ Roisín and LÉ Eithna remained on site carrying out surface searches under powerful searchlights. Lifeboats assisted the overnight operation.

A specialist sonar survey vessel has arrived this morning and will play a vital role in the operation.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick (45), the mother of a three-year-old boy, died in the crash which occurred shortly before 1am when the Dublin-based Sikorsky rescue helicopter was approaching Blacksod lighthouse for refuelling.

The crew of the ill-fated R116 (l-r) Chief pilot Mark Duffy, Winchmen Paul Ormsby,
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Winchman Ciarán Smith
The Dublin helicopter lost communications shortly after it had issued a radio message at 12.45am confirming the Blacksod refuelling.

It issued no Mayday and no satellite beacons were activated. Wreckage was sighted at sea by the Sligo helicopter (R118) on return from a successful medical evacuation of a fisherman from a Russian trawler 150kms from the coast.

It landed the fisherman and located Capt Fitzpatrick at sea, informing the RNLI Achill lifeboat.

Throughout the day, the Sligo and Shannon helicopters continued a search of a two square mile sea area off Blacksod bay, extending to Blackrock lighthouse eight kilometres west which the helicopter would have passed on approach to Blacksod.

Families of the missing crew members gathered at the lighthouse in Blacksod, Co Mayo, shortly after 6pm yesterday, where they met rescue workers involved in the search.

Following a weather forecast meeting this morning a decision will be made if naval and garda divers are to be used today in the search.

The recovery of the flight recorders, (black box), will be crucial to determine what happened.

CHC Helicopters, which employs the air crew on a contract to the Irish Coast Guard, said it was devastated by what it described as a “tragic accident”.

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