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Father of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick 'relieved' following inquest ruling

The jury at the inquest into the deaths of Capt Fitzpatrick and the three other crew in the Rescue 116 helicopter crash recorded verdicts of accidental death today.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE FATHER OF Captain Dara Fitzpatrick has said he is “relieved” following the end of an inquest into the death of his daughter and her three aircrew, who perished in 2017 when their helicopter crashed.

The jury at the inquest into the deaths of Capt Fitzpatrick and the three other Irish Coast Guard aircrew in the Rescue 116 helicopter crash today recorded verdicts of accidental death.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time this evening, John Fitzpatrick recalled the lengthy ordeal of investigations which culminated in the jury’s decision today

“A lot of things went on” since 2017, he said. You had the investigation, which was fine by the AAIU [Air Accident Investigation Unit] … then there was the appeal. That was 42 and a half days’ hearing, which was awful.

“And then it had to go back then to the AAIU to issue the final report. So there was something happening all the time. You were never allowed to forget it.”

Rescue 116 crashed off Co Mayo at 12.46am on 14 March 2017 during a search-and-rescue mission with four crew on board, after it struck Blackrock Island, 12 miles off the Irish coast.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, the commander of the flight, was pulled from the sea in the hours after the crash and never regained consciousness, and 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.

John Fitzpatrick said “a lot of things were clearer” to him following the inquest, as for some time he “just couldn’t fathom that there wasn’t systems and rules in place, which governed a lot of what happened.”

He also praised the witnesses who spoke at the inquest and thanked the jury for their diligence in the case.

The inquest, which took place at Belmullet Civic Centre in Co Mayo, heard from a total of 23 witnesses, including Coast Guard crew, members of the RNLI, colleagues of those who were killed in the incident, crash investigators and Gardaí.

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

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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.

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.

The report into the crash said that the crew were “unaware” it was heading for the Blackrock island.

The ordnance survey imagery did not show Blackrock and instead showed open water.

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