Rescue 116 report recommends 'thorough review' of search & rescue operations

The Air Accident Investigations Unit has released its interim report into the Coast Guard helicopter crash

Rescue 116 report recommends 'thorough review' of search & rescue operations

Photo shows Irish Navy Ship checking the seas around Blackrock | Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 12.40

A report into the Rescue 116 crash off the Mayo coast has recommended a 'thorough review' of search & rescue operations in Ireland.

This week marked one year since the Irish Coastguard chopper went down near Blackrock Island, killing all four crew onboard.

The bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered shortly afterwards.

However, their colleagues Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby remain lost at sea.

Rescue 116 crew. Image: Irish Coast Guard

Today's interim report from the Air Accident Investigations Unit (AAIU) recommends the Transport Minister should carry out a review to ensure "effective, continuous, comprehensive and independent" oversight of all aspects of search & rescue aviation operations.

It also recommends that the manufacturers of the helicopter should make updates to ensure latitude and longitude information is the most accurate during flights.

The AAIU has also recommended that helicopter service company CHC Ireland should conduct a review of its operations, to ensure they are sufficiently robust to maximise safety.

The report notes: "This review should consider extant risk assessments and a thematic examination of the corpus of all safety information available to the Operator, both internally and externally."

Minister's response

In a statement this afternoon, Transport Minister Shane Ross welcomed the publication of the interim report - and said the proposed search & rescue review will be conducted.

Minister Ross said: "I have asked my officials to make arrangements to ensure that this review is instigated without delay. This review will be carried out by an external party and it will take account of the previous and on-going work cited in the AAIU report in relation to the SAR aviation oversight. 

"I feel it important to emphasise that the AAIU’s investigation continues [...] Whilst I understand the on-going public interest in this matter, it is vital that the AAIU is given the time and space to complete its work and report on its findings."

Today's report release comes two days after family, friends and colleagues of the four Rescue 116 crew members gathered in Blacksod to mark the first anniversary of the crash.

Earlier this year, the AAIU said a final report would not be publicly available within 12 months of the date of the accident - but pledged to release an interim report while the full investigation continues.

Additional reporting by Paul Quinn