The preliminary safety investigation conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) of Ireland has concluded that the Sikorsky S92A Coast Guard helicopter that crashed on 14 March did so because it struck terrain not in its enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) database.
The preliminary report uses data taken from the helicopter’s black box. The data and recorded audio show that whilst circling Black Rock Island to head back to refuel, the helicopter struck a rock near the island. Around 26 seconds before impact a call of ‘ALTITUDE ALTITUDE’ was made, says the report. It continues: “In response to a query (‘OK, come right just confirm?’) from the Commander, the rear crew member said ‘twenty degrees right yeah’, and a heading change was initiated using heading mode. The rear crew member then interjected, with increasing urgency, ‘Come right now come right COME RIGHT.’ The helicopter then pitched its nose up two seconds before impact. The last recorded words were co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy saying: ‘We’re gone.’”
Of the four crew members that died in the crash, only the bodies of pilot Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy have been recovered.
The AAIU has made an interim safety recommendation that operator CHC Ireland should ‘re-evaluate all route guides in use by its SAR helicopters in Ireland, with a view to enhancing the information provided on obstacle heights and positions’.