Rescue 116: Search for Irish Coast Guard flight recorder gets underway


One of the recorders from the missing Coast Guard helicopter has been located 40m deep in the sea.

As today’s search for the three missing crew members from the helicopter – Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith – gets underway, the search for the recorder will also be part of today’s plan.

Jurgen Whyte of the Air Accident Investigations Unit told Morning Ireland that they believe the recorder will be close to the wreckage. They also believe that the three missing crew may be within this area as well.

“The focus is still on recovering the three crew members,” he said.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was recovered from the sea on Tuesday, but later passed away.

Yesterday, it was confirmed that the flight recorder beacon had been located. This will help to shed light on exactly what occurred leading up to the tragic incident.

Sea and weather conditions will play a huge part in determining when the recorder can be reached. The recorder is giving off a chirping noise and this helps searchers to triangulate the area in which is it is located.

“We’d regard this as a very important step forward in progressing the recovery stage of the search operation. We’ve detected a signal, the next stage would be to locate it. We’ve now begun the process of establishing its exact position,” the Coast Guard’s search and rescue operations director Gerard O’Flynn told reporters yesterday.


Finding the Flight Recorder

Jurgen Whyte of the Air Accident Investigations Unit said that the task is now to reach the recorder.
“It’s in a difficult area, it’s just off the large rock called Black Rock, it’s in difficult waters.
It’s in 40m of depth, so we need to find a top point and when we find top point we have a fixed position and from there we need to bring in more equipment to dive down, or use a robot to dive down and actually locate the recorder there. And the hope is that the recorder is with the wreckage.”

Earlier, he explained about the two recorders present on Coast Guard helicopters:
“These are modern enough that we can, if we recover the recorder and if it is functioning correctly, we can hopefully reanalyse, actually, the flight and get the aircraft to ‘fly’ again digitally, and that will help investigators to determine what has happened in the final moments of the flight itself.”

Meanwhile, RTÉ reports that the Defence Forces has confirmed the initial call for top cover at the incident on Sunday was made to the Air Corps.

In a statement, the Defence Forces told the station that it was asked to provide top cover in the mission in the early hours of Tuesday morning. However this was denied due to the the fact a fixed wing aircraft was not available, the incident was outside of normal hours and there as a lack of experienced personnel available.

The ship Granuaile is currently on the way to help out with the search. It will be used to help lift wreckage, if it this is needed.

Yesterday, Minister Shane Ross visited the site, and spoke to the family of the missing crewmembers.
Speaking to journalists at the scene, he said that it is “unspeakable, what’s going on”.

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