R116 crash report brings closure for families

Human error was not to blame for the tragic R116 helicopter crash off the North Mayo coast in March 2017. The crash led to the deaths of Dundalk native Captain Mark Duffy, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciaran Smith. The four-person crew were en route from Dublin to Blacksod in Co. Mayo to refuel when the incident occurred. The verdict of why the crash happened was delivered in a 350-page report which was published by the Air Accident Investigation Unit.

The report said the probable cause of the crash was due to the helicopter’s crew being unaware that there was a 282ft obstacle on their flight path as they flew along a pre-programmed route on the night of the crash. According to the report there were “serious and important weaknesses” with the flight operator’s safety management system. A total of 42 safety recommendations have been issued by the AAIU to ensure an accident like this never happens again.
Captain Mark Duffy’s wife Hermione spoke of her relief following the publication of the report and asked for respect to be given to the ‘four honourable souls who lost their precious lives that night in the service of others’.

“Esmé, Fionn and I are very relieved to see the publication of this report. “We have had many long and lonely days and nights without Mark in the nearly five years since the night our worlds were thrown upside down and Mark lost his life. We can now look forward ad milieora [to better things],” she said.

“It has been extremely challenging and emotional to navigate our grief, and we welcome the publication of the final report of the AAIU (Air Accident Investigation Unit) and the measure of closure which it provides. The work of the AAIU in the preparation of the report is to be commended,” she said.
“The remit of the report is clear and whilst questions may arise, regarding elements within and outside of the report’s parameters, it is not for me to comment publicly on them.

“Mark was an excellent helicopter pilot and Daddy. He shared with his crewmates, a deep commitment to his SAR [search and rescue] role and always took great pride and satisfaction in that role,” she said.
“I do ask, that when speaking about the accident, it is remembered that four honourable souls lost their precious lives that night in the service of others, and in circumstances which are harrowing and traumatic to read of and which have left wives, children, parents and extended families bereft. Respect is due to the crew when speaking about the accident, whether online or in print.

“For those who are affected by grief and feel so overwhelmed by it, Ná caill do mhisneach.
“To all my dear friends and extended family who have supported me through all of this to finally reach this day, I thank you all so much,” concluded Hermione.

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