Fishermen urged to help R116 helicopter crew search

Orla Smith Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Orla Smith said the families were devastated the missing men were not found with the wreckage

The sister of one of two Irish Coast Guard crew members missing since a helicopter crash has appealed for fishermen to help in the search.

Winch operator Paul Ormsby and winch man Ciarán Smith have been missing since Rescue 116 crashed off the County Mayo coast on 14 March.

Four people were on board the helicopter.

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.

Orla Smith, the sister of Ciarán Smith, told RTÉ that local knowledge from fishermen along the west coast could be crucial in finding the two men.

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

"To all fishing vessels, big and small, from Achill Island to Aranmore we are appealing to them to please come and help us now.

"We need them, we need their knowledge. We need them to assist in the ongoing efforts to find Ciarán and Paul."

She also said that both her family and the family of Mr Ormsby were devastated when their bodies were not found with the helicopter's wreckage.

"We are doing our best to keep going to stay as strong as possible and as positive as we can be but it is tough.

"We need those boys home, now. We really do. My parents need him home. My sister-in-law needs him home. My nieces need him home. They have to come home now. We need to find him."

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

RTÉ has reported that fishermen in the area around Blacksod, County Mayo, are willing to take part in a major sea search in the coming days.

It is also hoped that larger fishing vessels will take part so that the operation could extend to about 35 nautical miles off shore.

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 is now likely to focus on operational issues.

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