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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 11 December, 2018
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Searches continue for missing Coast Guard crew Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered earlier but she died shortly afterwards.

Crane lifts part of the wreckage in Blacksod, Mayo.
Crane lifts part of the wreckage in Blacksod, Mayo.
Image: TheJournal.ie/Paul Hosford

Updated 6.45pm

SEARCHES ARE CONTINUING for the three missing Coast Guard crew men who were aboard a rescue helicopter that crashed off the coast of Mayo last night.

The three are chief pilot Mark Duffy and winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered earlier this morning in a critical condition but she died shortly afterwards.

Four crew members were on board the downed Rescue 116 helicopter.

Search teams are continuing to search for the three other crew members.

Two more buses carrying family members of the missing men arrived at Blacksod, Mayo this evening.

Parts of the wreckage from the downed Coast Guard helicopter have also been brought to shore.

Coast Guard helicopters were assisting in their search by the Air Corps Casa, RNLI boats, the Naval Services’s LE Róisín, garda divers and local fishing vessels.

The helicopters involved in the search and ended their operations for the night at about 7.30pm. They will resume at first light at approximately 7am tomorrow morning.

It is hoped that surfaced based searching will continue throughout the night and a second naval vessel the LÉ Eithne is expected to join the search.

Garda and naval divers are on board and will continue to assess whether they can enter the waters tonight.

At least six trawlers that are also involved in the search have been transporting debris to the harbour in Blacksod.

The helicopter’s door is among the debris that’s been recovered.

Locals have also been coming with support, including soup and sandwiches for the search team and people on site.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News this evening, the Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations director Gerard O’Flynn said that the helicopter’s flight recorder has not yet been found.

“That will be a key piece of evidence for the air investigation unit and hopefully that piece of equipment will be found sooner rather than later,” he said.

The Rescue 116 helicopter was on its way from Dublin to Blacksod, Co Mayo to refuel before it joined an operation to assist in the medical evacuation of a UK registered fishing vessel.

Contact was lost just before 1am this morning and Michael Hurst of Ballyglass Coast Guard said he got the call soon afterwards:

At about 1.30am our pagers went off to contact our local coordination centre and the message was that a chopper had come down and to attend the scene in Blacksod.It’s the call nobody wants to get. It’s something you have nightmares about really, four of your colleagues going down like that it’s just very tough.

Debris  

Coast Guard Director Eugene Clonan said earlier that there is a “wide debris field” at the scene and that search and rescue workers are continuing to search the area.

The field was at one point estimated to have a radius of two miles but this has expanded due to wind and currents.

A Coast Guard spokesperson said that the cause of the crash is a matter for air accident investigators.

- With reporting by Paul Hosford in Blacksod.  

Read: First casualty of Coast Guard helicopter crash named as Captain Dara Fitzpatrick >

Read: Search continues for three members of Coast Guard helicopter crew >

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