Preliminary inquests into R116 tragedy to begin on March 1

PRELIMINARY inquests have been fixed for March 1 in Belmullet into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash which claimed the lives of four crew less than 12 months ago.

It was confirmed today by the Coroner for North Mayo, Dr. Eleanor Fitzgerald, that the hearings, which will be of a preliminary nature, will be held in Belmullet Civic Centre.

The start time for the proceedings will be 11 a.m.

A spokesperson for the coroner said that after initial matters are dealt with it is planned to the adjourn the inquests to a later date.

“Dr. Fitzgerald is hoping to be in a position to issue the coroners' certificate of death which will alllow the deaths be registered”, the spokesperson commented.

Four died in the helicopter crast at Blackrock Island, a rocky outcrop in the Atlantic, in the early hours of March 14, 2017.

The bodies of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy have been recovered.

However, the winch operator Paul Ormsby and winch man Ciarán Smith remain lost at sea.

The forthcoming hearing, as in all public hearings, won't deal with issues of blame or responsibility for the deaths, or with issues of criminal or civil liability.

All inquests have a fact-finding purpose – to establish the name(s) of the deceased, when and where they died, the medical cause of their deaths (if known) and how they came by their deaths.

A preliminary into the helicopter crash was published by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) a month after the tragedy in April 2017. A final report is awaited.