Republic of Ireland news

Black box signal detected in search for missing coast guard helicopter

From the top left, clockwise, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, winchman Ciaran Smith and winchman Paul Orsmby. Picture from Irish Coastguard
By Brian Hutton, Press Association

A BLACK box signal has been detected during the search for the remaining crew of a missing Irish Coast Guard helicopter off the west of Ireland.

Rescue workers have described the find as "significant" as mystery still surrounds what happened on the helicopter which lost radio contact without any warning at around 12.45am on Tuesday.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick (45) was pulled from the Atlantic off the Co Mayo coast - around six miles (10km) west of Blacksod.

She was taken to hospital in a critical condition but later died.

The other three crew, who have yet to be found, are chief pilot Mark Duffy from Dundalk, Co Louth, as well as Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby, both winchmen from north Co Dublin.

As a second day of searching was wound down yesterday, hopes were fading that any survivors would be found.

But the signal of the black box recorder could lead investigators to the bulk of the aircraft - which has yet to be located - and could hold vital clues as to the final moments of its doomed mission.

Declan Geoghegan, of the Irish Coast Guard, said: "The main frame, the engine and gearbox is still in the water. We should be able to find it, it is in just 40 metres of water. With the luck of God, they might be trapped in it."

Gerry O'Flynn of the Irish Coast Guard confirmed a black box signal was found shortly after 4pm yesterday.

"A signal has been detected and we regard this as a very significant step forward in terms of progressing the search stage of this operation," he said.

"So we've detected signals. The next stage will be to locate it.

"We've now begun the process of locating the exact position."

It is understood the signal was detected in and around the Blackrock Lighthouse, about eight miles off Blacksod.

The search operation is also using sonar equipment to try to locate the missing crew members while air and shore searches are ongoing.

Ms Fitzpatrick's sister, Niamh Fitzpatrick, said her family is heartbroken but added "we have no regrets where Dara is concerned".

"She lived her life to the full and did what she wanted to... she has a beautiful son," she told RTÉ radio.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child and he has a village around him now who will raise him on her behalf."

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