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Minister urged to accept all recommendations from R116 helicopter crash report

Eamon Ryan said that the department is currently considering the recommendations from the investigation.

An Irish Coast Guard helicopter.
An Irish Coast Guard helicopter.
Image: PA

POLITICIANS HAVE SAID that recommendations from the investigation into the Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 crash must be implemented in full.

In a sombre debate last evening, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said that he accepted the recommendations from the report.

Rescue 116 crashed off Co Mayo at 12.46am on 14 March 2017 with four crew on board after it struck Blackrock Island, 12 miles off the coast.

An investigation report into the Irish Coast Guard helicopter crash published earlier this month, identified “systemic safety issues”.

Minister Ryan said that his department is currently considering the recommendations from the investigation.

He said: “I fully accept the recommendations addressed to me contained within the report.”

Ryan also set out a range of improvements that had been made to governance and oversight since the crash.

“Given the size and complexity of the course my department will require some time to examine them in detail and consider its findings and recommendations.”

“The Department did not wait for the publication of the final report in order to implement on changes on foot of the lessons learned following the accident,” he told TDs.

He said that there has been a review of all training for members of the Coast Guard.

Minister Ryan also said that legislation will soon formalise the role of the Irish Aviation Authority in the oversight of search-and-rescue activities.

Multiple TDs last night urged Mr Ryan to ensure that all 42 safety recommendation are implemented in full.

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”, its report said.

“Accepting these recommendations is not enough,” Sinn Fein’s transport spokesperson Darren O’Rourke said.

He called on the minister to set out a timeline for when the recommendations will be implemented.

O’Rourke also asked how the Government planned to ensure various agencies and bodies follow the recommendations in full.

“It is essential each of the recommendations are acted upon in with haste to ensure everything is done to try to prevent another tragedy,” he said.

He also suggested that the minister should appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Transport to provide updates at a future date.

Mayo TD and Sinn Fein representative Rose Conway-Walsh said that the tragedy had a special place in the hearts of her community.

“We must have accountability in the system.

“It is vital that lessons are learnt,” she told Ryan.

We need a timeline and we need continuous reviews and updates. We so much owe it so those who have lost their lives.” This must never happen again. And we will always ask why.

Various TDs called for proper accountability, while welcoming the answers provided in the report.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy warned the minister: “Without accountability, you don’t change behaviour.”

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“There has to be accountability,” she said.

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 seabed, surface and shore searches.

Tributes were paid throughout the evening to the crew and TDs stood briefly in a moment of silence to commemorate the victims at the invitation of the Ceann Comhairle.

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 called on CHC Ireland, the company which provided the helicopters to the Irish Coast Guard, to review its guidance, operating and training procedures in respect of its EGPWS navigating system, and to ensure crews “are aware of the limitations”.

CHC Ireland has said it is committed to implementing the appropriate safety recommendations in the report.

There was also criticism and questioning of why Ireland has contracted out search and rescue services.

Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary, a Mayo TD, said: “I wonder why, as an island nation, we are contracting out our search-and-rescue, service?”

“Minister, we cannot allow our search and rescue to become an issue of profit,” he said.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith also told the minister that the next contract should not be awarded to CHC Ireland.

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