We all sadly recall the tragic loss of Rescue 116 in the early hours of 14 March 2017 at Blackrock, County Mayo. First of all, I again wish to avail of this opportunity in the House to offer my sincere condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of the four crew members who lost their lives - Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, Captain Mark Duffy, Winch Operator Paul Ormsby and Winchman Ciarán Smith. I am also acutely aware that both Paul and Ciarán remain lost at sea.
I recall for the House that under international convention, European regulation and domestic law, the Air Accident Investigation Unit, AAIU, is the national safety investigation authority for aviation accidents and incidents. While it is located within my Department, it functions independently of me and my Department. Regulations provide for investigations to be held in private and are confidential. The sole purpose of such investigations is the prevention of future accidents and incidents and not to apportion blame or liability.
I can again confirm to the Deputy that in line with its usual procedures, the AAIU commenced its investigation into the tragic loss of R116 immediately on notification of the accident. The investigation has since published a preliminary report, AAIU Report No. 2017-006, which was published on 13 April 2017; an interim statement; AAIU Report No. 2018-004, which was published on 16 April 2018; and a brief second interim statement, which was published on 1 March 2019. All these reports are publicly available on the AAIU website. I was advised of the status of the second interim statement into the tragic loss of R116 on 28 February 2019 prior to its publication on 1 March 2019.
As I have previously advised the Deputy, no final report may be made to the Minister or made public until the draft report has been provided to interested parties for a 60-day confidential comment period following which any comments received must be considered and responded to by the AAIU. In that regard it is not possible at this time to provide the Deputy with a date for the publication of the final report.
I would, however, note that it is in no way unusual for the report not be finalised at this stage. It is important that the investigation be thorough while also being as expeditious as possible, both to fulfil the national and international legal obligations on the AAIU and, indeed, out of respect for those who tragically lost their lives. For example, when the AAIU investigated EC-ITP, the Metroliner that crashed at Cork Airport on 10 February 2011, the final report was published on 28 January 2014. For international comparison, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch in the UK investigated an accident involving a Super Puma helicopter, registration G-REDL, which crashed in the UK on 1 April 2009. The final report was published on 24 November 2011.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Accident Investigation Board Norway investigated an EC 225 Airbus helicopter, which crashed on 29 April 2016. The final report was published in July 2018. The Italian Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Vol investigated a Ryanair aircraft that crashed in Ciampino, Italy on 10 November 2008. The final report was published on 20 December 2018. I hope this additional information is of some help.