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Crew on tragic Rescue 116 never got emergency warning due to technical glitch

Irish Mirror logoIrish Mirror 28/03/2017 Saoirse McGarrigle
Crew of Rescue 116 never got emergency warning due to glitch © Irish Mirror Crew of Rescue 116 never got emergency warning due to glitch

Crew onboard tragic Rescue 116 never got a last-minute emergency warning that it was about to hit rocks because of a technical glitch, it is claimed today.

Blackrock Island in Co Mayo, which the doomed chopper clipped before it was due to refuel, was not on the digital map that directs a crucial safety system.

The Irish Mirror has learned an audible message should have blasted out in the cockpit telling the pilot to “pull up” when satellite navigation detected it was too close to the island.

A source said last night: “Without this vital warning, an experienced crew would not have known there was an obstacle in their flight path until they were close enough to see it with their own eyes through darkness.

“But the system didn’t recognise Blackrock because it was not recorded on its database.”

Now a TD has demanded it becomes a central part of the investigation into the crash which killed Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy and winchmen Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby.

The source added: “The software package needs regular updates to ensure all hazards such as lighthouses and small islands are identified.

Credits: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

“The Enhanced Ground Warning Proximity System is designed to tell crew when they are approaching high ground in time to manoeuvre away from the obstacle.”

R116 left Dublin Airport at 11.03pm on March 13. The last message from the crew to Air Traffic Control stated that it was doubling back to refuel at Blacksod Bay on the mainland.

It had begun to descend ahead of its landing when the tail section of the aircraft clipped the western side of nearby Blackrock Island.

The possibility that a technical glitch may have caused the tragic accident is now a major cause of concern for many working within the Coast Guard.

Many are privately pushing for a full review of the satellite navigation system and its software after the loss of their four colleagues and friends.

The company which provides helicopter search and rescue services to the Coast Guard – CHC – said in a statement: “Given that the tragic accident of R116 is to a formal investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Unit, we are bound by the associated annex 13 protocols, as such it would not be appropriate for us to be drawn into questions of a technical nature.”

Sinn Fein’s transport spokeswoman said: “Whether or not a technical fault caused this has to be thoroughly investigated.

“It goes without saying we need to find out what, if anything, contributed to the accident. If this is found to be the cause of the accident, it must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

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