Search and Rescue: True Stories of Irish Air–Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116


Lorna Siggins

May 2022

Former Irish Times marine correspondent exposes the shocking truth behind the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicopter crash in March 2017.

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On 13 March 2017, the Rescue 116 crew of Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt. Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith took off from Dublin airport just after 11 p.m. for a medical evacuation off the west coast of Ireland. The first indication of disaster came when the crew failed to answer a radio call at 12.46 a.m. Shortly after 2am on 14 March, sister helicopter Rescue 118 spotted a casualty and debris in the water. There would be no survivors from R116, and extensive searches failed to locate the bodies of two of the four crew.

The crash occurred just six months after the loss of experienced Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas, from Doolin Coast Guard in Co. Clare, and eighteen years after the loss of four Air Corps crew who were returning from a night rescue in thick fog off the south-east coast.

In Search and Rescue, Lorna Siggins exposes the shocking systemic flaws that led to these tragic deaths, but also looks at successful rescues where, despite all the odds, the courage and dedication of members of the Irish Coast Guard, Air Corps, RNLI, fishing crew and the volunteers who work with them have saved countless lives.


1. A Dark Day
2. ‘A picture of friction and strain’
3. ‘It’s 116 – we can’t get her”
4. Top Cover
5. The Toughest Call
6. ‘We need those boys home …’
7. ‘The purest form of humanity’
8. ‘As needless as it was preventable’
9. A Rare and Curious Sight
10. A Developing Service
11. A Shannon Sikorsky’s Near-ditching
12. The Treacherous South-east
13. The Might of the Atlantic
14. South-west Sea Sense
15. Miracle at Poll na bPéist
16. Ambulance with Wings
17. ‘Why aren’t they turning round?’
18. Epilogue

Lorna Siggins is a former Irish Times journalist and has been reporting from the west coast for over 20 years, focusing on marine affairs. She has reported from the first successful Irish expedition to Mount Everest, from Antarctica, from the African and south American continents, and is author of several books, including a previous history of Irish air-sea rescue.

‘With more than 30 years’ experience as a journalist and as former marine correspondent with The Irish Times, Siggins knows how to present details in a clear and non-judgmental way. … In each story, Siggins gives space for families, friends and rescuers to speak, and as their words lift off the page they, to quote Heaney, catch the heart off guard and blow it open. … In this book, Siggins chronicles the evolution of the the Irish Coast Guard air-sea rescue service, and gives captivating accounts of brave and selfless rescue missions led by the Coast Guard and RNLI lifeboats. Her book is thoroughly compelling.’
Eleanor Hooker, The Irish Times

ISBN: 9781785373572