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Major search fails to find two missing rescue helicopter crewmen

By Michael McHugh

A flotilla of trawlers has found nothing after combing a swathe of the Atlantic off north-west Ireland for two winchmen missing from a crashed search and rescue helicopter.

About 110 boats took part in the hunt for Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith.

The Irish Coast Guard's Rescue 116 helicopter crashed into the sea about eight miles off Co Mayo. It went down after hitting Blackrock Island on March 14 on its return from supporting an operation to rescue a fisherman in the Atlantic.

Sean O'Donoghue, of the Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation (KFO), helped organise the coordinated search but said: "Unfortunately, they did not find anything."

The intention was to search northwards from Blackrock, covering Donegal Bay and further north.

The wreckage of the Sikorsky S-92 has been transported to an air accident investigation facility after being brought ashore.

It was lifted from the seabed a week ago.

The bodies have been recovered of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who was pulled from the sea in the hours after the crash, and Captain Mark Duffy, who was taken from the cockpit 12 days later by Navy divers working at depths of 40 metres.

Efforts to find the winch team have continued, with searches extending from north Galway and Achill island along Ireland's western seaboard into Donegal Bay and west Donegal.

Some pieces of the helicopter's fuselage were found off west Donegal two weeks after the crash. The Republic's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has taken what was salvaged from the wreckage for detailed analysis at its facility in Gormanston, Co Meath.

Inspectors revealed a week ago that initial reviews of the black box flight recorder showed there was no indication of any mechanical problems in the seconds before the helicopter hit Blackrock Island and crashed into the ocean.

The AAIU is expected to publish a preliminary report on the accident in the coming days.

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