Inquest into R116 helicopter crash deaths set to resume

Rescue 116 crashed off Co Mayo on March 14 2017 during a search and rescue mission with four crew on board.
Inquest into R116 helicopter crash deaths set to resume

By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

An inquest into the deaths of four Coast Guard aircrew in the Rescue 116 helicopter crash is set to resume later.

Rescue 116 crashed off Co Mayo at 12.46am on March 14th, 2017, during a search and rescue mission with four crew on board after it struck Blackrock Island, 19km off the coast.

At the time of the accident, the crew were offering support to an operation to airlift an injured man from a fishing trawler.

An investigation published last year into the crash identified “systemic safety issues” and made 42 safety recommendations.

The investigation found that the aircraft was manoeuvring at 200ft and nine nautical miles from the intended landing point, at night and in poor weather conditions, unaware that a 282ft obstacle was on the flight path.

There were “serious and important weaknesses” with the operator’s safety management systems (SMS) in relation to navigation and the reporting of safety issues, “such that certain risks that could have been mitigated were not”, the report said.

Dara Fitzpatrick funeral
The coffin arrives for the funeral of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died in the Coast Guard helicopter tragedy off Blacksod, Co Mayo in March 2017. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, the commander of the flight, was pulled from the sea in the hours after the crash and never regained consciousness, while the body of Captain Mark Duffy, the co-pilot, was taken from the cockpit 12 days later by Navy divers.

The bodies of winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith were never recovered despite weeks of intensive searches of the seabed, surface and shore.

The investigation report found that concerns had been raised over the navigation system, the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), four years before the crash.

A preliminary inquest was held in 2018 to issue death certificates for all four crew, and was then adjourned.

The inquest is scheduled to sit for three days in Belmullet Civic Centre in Co Mayo.

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