An has died and three others were missing after a Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter crashed off the west coast of Ireland during a rescue operation, the Coast Guard said on Tuesday.
The victim has been identified as Irish Coast Guard helicopter pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. Captain Fitzpatrick was reportedly rescued and taken to a local hospital where she later died.
A major search and rescue operating for the three people still missing was underway Tuesday off Mayo county in Ireland approximately six miles west of Blacksod.
The Irish Coast Guard says it lost contract with the helicopter at approximately 1 a.m. after the helicopter crew had completed an early morning medevac of a crewman aboard a UK registered fishing vessel approximately 150 miles west of Eagle Island.
The helicopter involved has the call sign Rescue 116 and is based out of Dublin.
The search operation is being coordinated by the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centre in Malin Head and involves SAR helicopters from Sligo and Shannon, the Irish Air Corps, two RNLI lifeboat crews, and at least five local fishing vessels.
“As the search for the Dublin based helicopter R116 is currently underway I would like to express my sincere support and sympathies for all those involved, particularly those family members who are awaiting news of their loved ones,” said Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross.
The Rescue 116 helicopter is reported to be a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter, which is operated by CHC Helicopters for the Irish Coast Guard.
In January, Sikorsky called for a mandatory, fleet-wide inspection of all S-92’s in operation worldwide following an on-going investigation into a December 28 rig landing accident on a platform in the North Sea. The mandatory inspections however were only expected to take 24-48 hours.
“This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned. As we await further information I would like to appeal for space to be given to the relevant professionals involved in the search operation to complete their work. Once again, I send my utmost support to all those affected,” Ross added.
The Irish Coast Guard has five S92 aircraft in its SAR fleet.