Hoax call that kayaker was in danger put lives at risk, says MLA
Those who made a hoax call that led to a lifeboat and rescue helicopter being scrambled to the Co Down coast yesterday put lives in danger, an Assembly Member has said.
A report of a kayak in trouble near the Copeland Islands turned out to be a false emergency, Ulster Unionist Alan Chambers said.
At around the same time, the wreckage of an Irish Coast Guard helicopter was being lifted from the Atlantic seabed off the Co Mayo coast by search crews.
However, the teams in the Republic were unable to recover two missing crewmen after managing to raise the wreckage of the Rescue 116.
Rescue workers had "desperately hoped" that Irish Coast Guard members Ciaran Smith (38) and Paul Ormsby (53) would be in or near the main section of the aircraft.
Mr Chambers said the disaster on March 14 clearly demonstrated the very real dangers faced by rescue teams.
Bangor RNLI, Donaghadee RNLI and a Coastguard helicopter were sent to the Co Down coast yesterday evening after a kayaker claimed to have got into difficulties.
"There's nothing routine when these crews get into a helicopter placing their lives at risk," said Mr Chambers.
"Recent events have brought this into perspective. These crews put their lives on the line to save others, and the last thing they need is a sick hoax."
Last night in Mayo, Irish Coast Guard operations manager Gerard O'Flynn said that it will continue to look for its missing colleagues in the hope of bringing them home while asking the crewmen's families "not to give up hope".
In a poignant moment, rescue workers aboard the Granuaile held a prayer service for the Rescue 116 crew as they brought the Sikorsky S-92 remains back to Blacksod Bay from where the search is being co-ordinated.
A Naval Service dive team earlier managed to attach equipment to the wreckage to assist the lifting process on what was the 20th day of the large-scale search operation.
Despite the massive disappointment in not being able to locate the two crewmen after extensive examinations near the crash site, senior rescue workers and investigators last night stressed that the search would continue.
"The hope remains, we haven't given up hope. We will continue to search for another period given that we have resources on scene and available," Mr O'Flynn said.
Supt Tony Healy added: "We achieved our target today of lifting the wreckage and inspecting underneath it.
"Unfortunately we didn't find any of the crewmen today, but the conditions were just really on the edge and it's a tribute to all the people out there."