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Search teams will attempt to lift wreckage of Rescue 116 today

The location of Paul Ormsby (53) and Ciarán Smith (38) remains unknown.

An Irish Coastguard helicopter searching along the coastline near Blacksod, Co Mayo during the week
An Irish Coastguard helicopter searching along the coastline near Blacksod, Co Mayo during the week
Image: Chris Radburn/PA Images

A SPECIALISED TUG boat will attempt to raise the wreckage of Rescue 116 today in an effort to locate and recover the bodies of its missing crewmen.

The 35-metre Ocean Challenger is on its way to Blacksod Bay from Castletownbere in Co Cork, where it is owned by a marine salvage and wreck-removal company.

Atlantic Towage and Marine Limited has been engaged by the agencies involved in the search operation to move the wreckage of the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, which crashed off the Mayo coast over two weeks ago.

The fuselage of the aircraft is upside down beneath 40 metres of rough waters around 60 meters from Blackrock Island, with which it is believed to have made contact before crashing into the sea.

The body of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered from the water shortly after the accident, while the body of her co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy was recovered from the cockpit of the helicopter last Sunday.

Missing crew members

The location of winch operator Paul Ormsby (53) and winchman Ciarán Smith (38) remains unknown. It is hoped their remains are inside or in the vicinity of the wreckage.

Efforts by the Naval Service diving team to raise the wreckage slightly using flotation devices proved unsuccessful last week due to dangerous sea conditions.

It is now planned to undertake a direct lift of the aircraft in order to facilitate the inspection of areas within and underneath the wreckage in a bid to locate the missing crewmen.

The Ocean Challenger, which was acquired by Atlantic Towage and Marine Ltd earlier this year, will be positioned directly above the crash site and will raise the five-tonne wreckage to the surface.

A spokesperson for the company today declined to comment on the operation due to “the sensitive nature of the situation”.

The salvage and wreck-removal firm has experience of similar operations, having successfully retrieved the four-tonne keel of the yacht Rambler 100 from a depth of 75 metres near Fastnet Rock, Co Cork in 2014.

Read: ‘Paralysed with grief, we have lost one of God’s finest creatures’ – funeral of Captain Mark Duffy takes place

Read: Rescuers will try to lift the wreckage of Rescue 116 from the sea today

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Darragh McDonagh

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