Updated: 27/10/17 : 04:28:58
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Coastguard crews raised safety concerns

LIFE JACKETS worn by crews on Coastguard choppers — which includes Sligo — were “not fit for purpose.”

These were withdrawn for retrofitting after Coastguard fatalities earlier this year.

The claims were made in a RTÉ “Prime Time”documentary last night, Thursday.

Maps Accuracy

The programme also detailed a series of safety concerns raised by crews.

Issues raised by crews in recent years include alleged non-compliance with manufacturers recommendations on safety wear. 

Safety concerns raised include locating beacons for ditched crews, life jackets and the accuracy maps plotting terrain and obstacles.

“Prime Time” also provided Minutes of meetings showing Coastguard staff had raised their concerns over the past five years.

Files Closed

The crew concerns were recorded in forms titled Safety Quality Integrated Database (SQID) — called “Squid” for short.

Prime Time alleged, with supporting documentation, that some files raising crew concerns had been classified “closed”without satisfaction of issues raised.

Same Pouch

Attendees listed at some meetings included the captain and crew members of the ill-fated Rescue 116.

It crashed last March with the loss of all four crew off the Mayo coast, on a night when it was providing top cover for a rescue mission by the Sligo-based 118.

The 116 crew’s beacons had been installed in the same pouch as the GPS antenna.

This was in line with a service bulletin issued by the life jacket manufacturer.

But the beacon manufacturer had recommended a minimum separation distance of 30cm between the GPS antenna and beacon.

When Capt Dara Fitzpatrick was found in Blacksod Bay, she had been in the water for almost 90 minutes, and she was pronounced dead later in hospital. 

Capt Fitzpatrick’s life jacket was fully inflated and her Coastguard colleagues believe if her beacon had been working she could have been located much sooner.

Prime Time also highlighted issues with the quality of the moving map system used by the air crew, and says the pilots were testing iPads that were not approved for navigation – with a discrepancy in the height for Blackrock island between the two systems.

Meanwhile, the contract to provide Coastguard cover is worth half a billion over ten years.

The service is provided by CHC Ireland, a subsidiary of the Canadian parent company which offers similar services worldwide.

The company declined to comment on the issues raised by the RTE show.

Joint Investigation

The Health and Safety Authority continues to work with Gardai on a joint investigation in the aftermath of the Rescue 116 catastrophe.

Their report will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), The Irish Times reported last night.

That office will decide whether or not there should be any further action, including prosecutions.

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