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Rescue 116 helicopter crew search 'one of the largest in Irish state history'

Blackrock island Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption The helicopter crashed near Blackrock island last month, after assisting in the rescue of a fisherman

One of the largest open water and shoreline searches in Irish state history has taken place for two men missing since a helicopter crash, the Irish Coast Guard has said.

About 110 boats, including civilian vessels, took part in the search for Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Both men have been missing since Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 crashed on 14 March.

Four people were on board the helicopter when it came down.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick died after she was rescued from the sea hours after the crash.

The body of her co-pilot, Capt Mark Duffy, was later recovered from the wreckage.

Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption The crew of Rescue 116 (clockwise from top left): Capt Dara Fitzpatrick;, Capt Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby

Last Sunday, the wreckage of the helicopter was lifted from the Irish Sea from where it crashed near Blackrock Island, off the County Mayo coast, but the two missing crew members were not found.

Saturday's search involved the Irish Coast Guard, RNLI, Irish Air Corps, Irish Naval Service and Irish Civil Defence, along with more than 80 civilian boats.

The search stretched along the west coast, from County Donegal to County Mayo.

It is estimated that the boats covered around 1,000 square miles.

Image copyright Irish Coast Guard
Image caption This image shows how the search zone was divided

The search zone, co-ordinated by the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI, was divided into grids, with inshore boats working close to the coastline and larger vessels further out to sea.

Previously, the sister of Ciarán Smith had appealed for fishermen along the Irish coast to join the search

Orla Smith said that local knowledge could be crucial in finding the two men.

An investigation into what happened to the helicopter is continuing.

The Air Accident Investigation Unit has said there was no indication of any mechanical problems in the seconds before the impact.

It is thought the inquiry into the cause of the crash on 14 March will now focus on operational issues.

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