Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Deficiencies must be addressed to ensure R116 accident cannot be repeated

Pringle: Deficiencies must be addressed to ensure R116 accident cannot be repeated

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said deficiencies of the Department of Transportation, Coast Guard and the Irish Aviation Authority in relation to the R116 helicopter disaster must be addressed to ensure that such an accident cannot happen again.

Addressing the Dáil on Wednesday evening during statements on the Air Accident Investigation Unit Final Report into the disaster, Deputy Pringle said: “Coming from a coastal community myself, I recognise the importance of our Coast Guard and know of the sheer devastation felt by a coastal community when an accident such as the R116 air accident occurs.

 “I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sympathies to the families of Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciarán Smith, and to their communities who are no doubt feeling the impact of this tragedy.

“The report of the air accident investigation unit makes for sobering reading and outlines further the tragedy that this was.

 “It highlights that it was an avoidable tragedy. It seems to me that it could have been avoided by the company doing its job properly and by the State actually providing oversight of the contract that it has given out on our behalf,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said the report lists 19 recommendations for State agencies and 23 recommendations for the operator of the aircraft.

He said: “We all know how the Blackrock Island was not on the maps that were used on the helicopter and that the crew not being based on the west coast may not have been totally familiar with it. But the question has to be asked how in this day and age was that situation allowed to continue and has it been sorted out at this stage?”

He said: “When we look at the report and the highlighting of the oversight findings, the deficiencies of the Department, Coast Guard and the Irish Aviation Authority are stark and have to be addressed to ensure that this cannot happen again.”

The deputy also noted the report’s “extremely worrying” oversight finding number 46, which stated: “Neither the Department of Transport or the Coast Guard had aviation expertise available within their own personnel resources and lacked the capacity to remain an ‘intelligent customer’ in relation to contracted operations.”

Deputy Pringle asked: “What is the state going to do to correct that situation? There is no doubt that there were massive failings on behalf of the contracted company but that does not remove the duty of care of the State as the contractor to make sure that everything is correct and to protect the citizens.”

He also asked who will oversee the implementation of the report’s recommendations, saying, “There are such damning recommendations that they have to be implemented in full, and it seems to me that unfortunately neither the Department nor the Coast Guard are competent to do that.”

The deputy said there must be oversight to ensure the recommendations are implemented.