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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 20 October, 2019
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Favourable weather conditions to aid fresh search for missing Rescue 116 crew members

Last night, RTÉ’s Prime Time reported that concerns over onboard mapping systems had been flagged four years ago.

Black Rock island off the coast of Mayo
Black Rock island off the coast of Mayo
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

A NEW SERIES of searches are set to take place this weekend, for the missing crew members of Rescue 116.

A garda spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that the garda water unit is scheduled to carry out searches tomorrow, with more favourable weather conditions forecast.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered at sea soon after the helicopter went down, but died later in hospital. The body of pilot Mark Duffy was found in the wreckage of the helicopter some weeks later.

The bodies of winch operator Paul Ormsby (53) and winchman Ciarán Smith (38) have yet to be recovered.

Search operations persisted for many weeks after the helicopter went down in March.

It is believed that more favourable sea conditions will mean that a fresh survey of the area around Black Rock island, where the helicopter crashed, will be possible this weekend.

It is hoped that new evidence may be found, including one of the engines of the helicopter which lies on the sea bed.

Last night, RTÉ’s Prime Time programme revealed that a pilot had raised concerns four years ago that Black Rock island off Mayo was not on the onboard warning systems that Coast Guard search and rescue teams use, but no action was taken.

Prime Time found a chain of emails between Sligo-based Coast Guard pilots and a senior CHC manager dating back to 2013, in which the omission of Black Rock on the system was flagged.

A source quoted in the programme said that the pilot had spotted the omission while carrying out a test flight.

That source said that Coast Guard personnel were told at a meeting six weeks after the Rescue 116 crash that management was trying to establish if this information had been passed on to the company that supplied the EGPWS system.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, retired lieutenant colonel Kevin Byrne said that Rescue 116 did not have sufficient data onboard its systems to avoid the collision.

He said: “It was not a mechanical error. The aircraft was running normally and there was a problem, they struck a rock as there was no warning to alarm the pilot. It is not like normal flying.”

Read: Pilot flagged concerns that island was not on mapping system 4 years before Rescue 116 crash

Read: Coast Guard rescues golden retriever trapped 15ft down a cliff in Sutton

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Sean Murray

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