Belfast Telegraph

Searches continue for Irish Coast Guard crewmen after helicopter recovered

Searches are to continue for two missing Irish Coast Guard crew members after a major operation to lift their helicopter from the sea failed to locate them.

The wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter was lifted from the Atlantic seabed on Sunday evening by search crews.

However, there was no sign of the two missing crew members, Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith, who have been missing since Rescue 116 was lost on March 14.

Search agencies told RTE that their efforts to find the missing crewmen will continue as long as there is hope of locating them.

Lifting equipment was attached to the wreckage by Naval Service dive teams on Sunday when weather conditions improved. After a lengthy operation just off Blackrock island, about 13km (eight miles) off the coast of Co Mayo, it was eventually brought to the surface.

The aircraft was then taken from the water and placed on board the Irish Lights vessel, the Granuaile.

Heavy swells and currents prevented dives to the aircraft on Saturday.

It is almost three weeks since the helicopter crashed into Blackrock Island with four crew members on board.

The bodies of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy have been recovered.

On Saturday, the Air Accident Investigation Unit said there was no indication of any mechanical problems in the seconds before the impact.

The AAIU said the investigation into the crash is ongoing and a preliminary report will be issued in the near future.

Previous rescue dives have been hampered by ocean swells. A remotely-operated vehicle was used to clear some of the mangled wreckage and open access to the cockpit.

An underwater camera was also used around the wreck site in a bid to find the bodies of the two crew members who are still missing.

The AAIU has said it believed the tail of Rescue 116 hit rocks on the western end of the island as it returned from supporting a rescue mission to refuel at Blacksod.

There was no indication of any danger moments before the Sikorsky S92 vanished, with the crew's final transmission: "Shortly landing at Blacksod."

The inquiry into the cause of the crash is now likely to focus on operational issues.

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