Updated: 30/03/17 : 04:15:14
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Dublin bound UK helicopter goes missing with five on board

A search operation was ongoing in the Irish Sea on Wednesday night after a helicopter with five people on board went missing as it made its way to Dublin.

A spokesman for the UK Coastguard said it was co-ordinating a search operation for the privately owned UK helicopter in the Caernarfon Bay area of Wales.

The red Twin Squirrel helicopter left Luton, Bedfordshire, on Wednesday afternoon and was en route to Weston Airport in west Dublin when it lost contact with British air traffic control.

The Irish Times reports that the UK Coastguard said radar contact was lost with the aircraft and that “after contacting all airbases with no sightings or radio contact” it was notified at 4.15pm [yesterday] to start a search operation.

“We have established a search plan between Caernarfon Bay and the shore of Dublin and currently have two Coastguard helicopters searching the route,” UK Coastguard duty commander Peter Davies said.

A spokeswoman later said the search was being affected by weather conditions but was still ongoing.

“There is quite poor visibility which is hampering the search efforts. There is a lot of low cloud coverage.”

The Maritime and Coastguard agency said due to low lying cloud, visibility has been extremely poor and has hampered the search efforts.

“The helicopters have now returned to their respective bases and there are no plans at this stage to continue the aerial search unless the weather improves significantly. North Wales Police have taken over the search operation and have called in Mountain Rescue Teams to continue the land based search in the Snowdonia area,” it said in a statement.

The Irish Coastguard said its assistance in a communications search for the missing helicopter had been requested. This involved appealing to all aircraft and shipping in the Irish Sea area which might have information on the missing aircraft.

Rescue assets

A spokesman said it had not been asked to supply any physical search and rescue assets as of 10pm.

The RNLI also said it was on standby, but had not been asked to launch any lifeboats as of 10pm on either side of the Irish Sea.

The Irish Coastguard’s Dublin-based helicopter base is currently without a search and rescue aircraft, since the crash of Rescue 116 in north Mayo in the early hours of March 14th.

However, deployment of a back-up aircraft is in train for the Dublin base. The Government contract with CHC Ireland provided for a fifth Sikorsky S-92 as support for the four bases in Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo.

The search for two of the missing crew members is ongoing at Blacksod Bay with the remains of two other members since recovered.

The helicopter is owned by Staske Construction Ltd in Milton Keynes in the UK Milton Keynes, which is run by Kevin and Ruth Burke, who rent it out to film crews.

The helicopter registration number is G-OHCP.