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Rescue 116: Black box homing beacon detected in search for missing crew

Search teams are looking for three missing crew men.

Emergency service activity at Blacksod bay.
Emergency service activity at Blacksod bay.
Image: Eamonn Farrell

SEARCH TEAMS LOOKING for the downed Irish Coast Guard helicopter have detected a homing beacon from the aircraft’s black box flight recorder.

Rescue teams have been searching for three missing crewmen after the helicopter crashed off the Mayo coast on Tuesday morning.

Four crew members were on board the Rescue 116 helicopter. Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered from the sea yesterday but she passed away yesterday afternoon.

Searches are now ongoing to locate Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

It’s understood the search has been focused on finding the main part of the wreckage of the helicopter.

The teams now believe they have detected the flight recorder’s beacon in waters that have a depth of 40m near an area known as Black Rock.

“We’d regard this as a very important step forward in progressing the recovery stage of the search operation. We’ve detected a signal, the next stage would be to locate it. We’ve now begun the process of establishing its exact position,” the Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations director Gerard O’Flynn told reporters this afternoon.

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Jurgen Whyte of the Accident Investigations Unit says the task will then be to reach the recorder.

“What this means is that the recorder has activated its beacon and we are now using sophisticated equipment to home in on this signal itself. So we have to move from a larger vessel to a smaller vessel,” he said.

It’s in a difficult area, it’s just off the large rock called Black Rock, it’s in difficult waters. It’s in 40m of depth, so we need to find a top point and when we find top point we have a fixed position and from there we need to bring in more equipment to dive down, or use a robot to dive down and actually locate the recorder there. And the hope is that the recorder is with the wreckage.

He added that it is hoped that this would take place later this evening.

- With reporting by Paul Hosford in Blacksod.

Read: ‘It’s unspeakable, what’s going on’: Shane Ross meets families of Coast Guard crew >

Read: ‘You hang on to a thread of hope but are fearful’ – The search for Rescue 116 >

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Rónán Duffy

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