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Family's anguish as details of helicopter tragedy are revealed

By Ian Begley

The family of Rescue 116 co-pilot Mark Duffy has said they are "devastated and distressed" following the release of the preliminary report into the final moments before the crash.

Details released indicated that the Irish Coast Guard helicopter "pitched up rapidly" in its final seconds.

However, the aircraft crashed on March 14 off the coast of Co Mayo, claiming the lives of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, winchman Paul Ormsby and winch operator Ciarán Smith.

Captain Duffy is the last recorded voice saying "we're gone" before the crash.

His sister Niamh told the Irish Independent: "As a family we are devastated and distressed for all the families involved". She adding that they would not be offering further comment on the AAIU report.

The report also revealed that the helicopter's on board warning system did not have relevant data relating to Blackrock island.

It has recommended that CHC Ireland, which operates Coast Guard Helicopters, should immediately review all route guides on Search and Rescue aircraft to enhance the information provided on obstacles and terrain.

But, for the families of the remaining crew, their main concern is to bring their loved ones home. The search for the two men continues.

Orla Smith, the sister of winch operator Mr Smith, said the tragedy was a "living nightmare".

"For all of my family and Paul Ormsby's family it is a living nightmare. We're doing our best to keep going, to stay as strong as possible and to stay as positive as we can. But it is tough, it is really, really tough. We need those boys home now. We really do.

"My parents need them home, my sister-in-law needs him home. My nieces need him home. They have to come home now," Ms Smith said.

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