Devastated dad of pilot killed in helicopter crash slams 'crazy' safety check failures

The Irish Coast Guard’s R116 helicopter was piloted by Dara Fitzpatrick when it crashed off the coast of County Mayo in 2017, killing its captain Mark Duffy and winch people Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick died after the R116 helicopter hit Blackrock Island just 12 miles offshore (

Image: PA)

The devastated father of a pilot killed in a helicopter crash said it was “absolutely crazy” that safety concerns about the navigation system were not addressed.

The Irish Coast Guard’s R116 helicopter was piloted by Dara Fitzpatrick when it crashed off the coast of County Mayo in 2017, killing her and three other crew members.

Dad John has since spoken out after a report on the tragedy identified “systemic safety issues.”

Rescue 116 crashed at 12:46 p.m. on March 14, 2017 after hitting Blackrock Island just 12 miles offshore.

Captain Dara, the flight commander, was dragged out of the sea in the hours after the crash but never regained consciousness.

Clockwise from top left: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, Winches Ciaran Smith and Paul Orsmby
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Image:

PA)

Navy divers took the body of Captain Mark Duffy, the co-pilot, from the cockpit 12 days later.

The bodies of winch workers Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith were never recovered despite weeks of thorough searches.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) report of the incident was released on Friday.

The crew, who flew in darkness and poor weather conditions, were unaware, according to the report, that the 282-foot-long Blackrock Island was an obstacle in the trajectory of their preprogrammed route.

Parents of Dara, John and Mary at the funeral after the crash in March 2017
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Image:

PA)

Four years before the crash, concerns were raised about the navigation system – the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), according to the investigation report.

Emails from 2013 made it clear that Blackrock Lighthouse was not listed in the obstacle database.

John has since expressed his horror that things were not brought up.

He told RTE Radio One, “I am actually quite shocked by some of the results.

The investigation can now continue after the crash report has been completed

“And what really excites me is that it was reported in 2013 and nothing was done.

“There is no evidence brought up which I think is absolutely insane.

“I mean, you know, these crews that are going out and their lives can be in jeopardy, and everything that can be done should be done to alleviate that.” But in this case it wasn’t. “

He said he had no plans to take legal action after the report was released.

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Dan said the report would help his family move forward and now that the investigation can continue, it would bring “finality”.

When asked if he was angry, he said: “Anger really doesn’t get you anywhere, I’m sad.”

He added, “She was a good pilot. She did her job well.”

The report found that the crew “probably believed” that the route “assumed adequate separation of obstacles” by design.

The AAIU made 42 recommendations in the light of its findings. The Department of Transportation said it fully accepted the report.

The report called on CHC Ireland, the company that supplied the Irish Coast Guard with the helicopters, to review its guidelines, operating and training procedures, and to ensure that crews are “aware of the restrictions”.

CHC Ireland is committed to implementing the relevant safety recommendations in the report.

The investigation also raised the question of whether the rescue mission was required under official protocols.

The National Search and Rescue (SAR) Framework says that such missions are intended for people “who are or are suspected of being in imminent danger to their lives”.

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