Ireland's Air Accident Investigation Unit has confirmed its recovered wreckage from the helicopter's tail

21 March 2017

Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has said the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 116, came into contact with “rocky surfaces” before it crashed.

Rescue 116 went down off the coast of Mayo in the early hours of 14 March 2017.

Pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered from the sea but later died in hospital. Her funeral was held on 18 March 2017.

The search continues for her three colleagues, chief pilot Mark Duffy and winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

In a statement, the AAIU announced it had recovered a significant amount of helicopter wreckage close to Black Rock Light House

“A significant amount of wreckage has been recovered from the sea and this has been logged and will be brought to the AAIU wreckage facility in Gormanston, Co Meath, for detailed examination,” said the statement.

“Furthermore, the AAIU has visited Black Rock Light House, on the approaches to Blacksod bay, which is close to the last recorded position of the helicopter.”

“Some helicopter wreckage has been recovered from the general area of Black Rock Light House. This wreckage is primarily from the tail area of the helicopter,” continued the statement.

“At this early stage in the investigation it is not possible to be definitive about the exact nature of damage to the recovered wreckage or indeed the circumstances of the accident.”

“However, there appears to be marks on some of the recovered wreckage which are consistent with the tail of the aircraft contacting rocky surfaces on the Western end of Blackrock. The Investigation has not yet definitively identified the initial point of impact.”

The AAIU said it was close to finding the helicopter’s black box.

“Equipment aboard surface search vessels has detected a signal which is believed to be from the underwater locator beacon attached to the aircraft’s “Black Box”,” said the statement.

“This signal points toward an area which will be the focus of further, multi-agency investigation activities at the earliest opportunity, subject to weather.”

The AAIU said it was being assisted by the Garda Siochana, Coast Guard, Irish Air Corps, the Irish Marine institute, and many local persons and agencies “with the primary objective of locating and recovering the missing crew members.”

It has also received support and advice from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch.


14 March 2017

The search started after contact was lost with the Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew, Rescue 116, just after 0100 on 14 March 2017.

The Dublin based crew were working alongside the Sligo based Coast Guard helicopter R118 which had earlier evacuated a man who needed medical attention from a UK registered fishing boat.

A major sea search is ongoing off the county Mayo coast approximately six miles west of Blacksod.

Pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick from Rescue 116 was found, but later died in hospital. The search continues for the other three crew members.

Search and Rescue helicopters from Sligo and Shannon are on scene along with the Air Corps Casa.

Ballyglass and Achill all weather lifeboats (ALBs) are also taking part in the search along with five local fishing vessels.

In a statement, the Irish Coast Guard said: “The Sligo based Coast Guard helicopter R118 completed an early morning medical evacuation (medevac) of a crewman requiring urgent medical attention from a UK registered fishing vessel approximately 150 miles west of Eagle Island in County Mayo.”

“Owing to the distance involved safety and communication support, known as Top Cover, was provided by the second Coast Guard helicopter, the Dublin based R116,” continued the statement.

“The search operation is being coordinated by the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centre in Malin Head. Both helicopters refuelled at Blacksod prior to transiting to the scene.”

The Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross has expressed concern for the missing crew and their families.

“As the search for the Dublin based helicopter R116 is currently underway I would like to express my sincere support and sympathies for all those involved, particularly those family members who are awaiting news of their loved ones,” he said.

“This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned. As we await further information I would like to appeal for space to be given to the relevant professionals involved in the search operation to complete their work.” added Minister Ross.