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Rescue 116 helicopter crew not found in major sea search

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

A major sea search described as one of the biggest in Irish state history has failed to locate two Irish Coast Guard crew members missing since a helicopter crash.

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

The co-ordinated search took place along the Irish west coast on Saturday.

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

Four people were on board the helicopter when it came down off the County Mayo coast.

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 where it crashed near Blackrock Island 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.

However, the extensive search, which stretched over hundreds of square miles from County Donegal to County Mayo, failed to find any sign of the two men.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team in County Down were among the volunteer teams who helped search the shoreline for the men

Inshore boats worked close to the coastline and larger vessels further out to sea.

Helicopters searched from the air while a shoreline effort was assisted by search and rescue volunteers from across the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Search teams from Counties Down, Wicklow, Dublin, Donegal, Claire and Tipperary were among those who took part.

The search came days after an appeal from a sister of Ciarán Smith for help from fishermen and coastal communities in searching for the men.

Speaking after the search, Orla Smith said the support show by the fishing communities had given the families renewed hope and that there were no words to thank those involved in the search.

Image copyright Irish Coast Guard
Image caption The Irish Coast Guard and RNLI divided the search area into zones for Saturday's effort

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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