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Iran imposes sanctions on 15 US firms

Iran said Sunday it has imposed sanctions on 15 American companies over their alleged support for Israel, terrorism and repression in the region. A Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency said the companies are barred from any agreements with Iranian firms and that former and current directors will not be eligible for visas. The move is seen as a response to U.S. sanctions placed on dozens of Iranian entities in February following an Iranian missile test. Iran’s sanctions are unlikely to have much impact as none of the targeted U.S. companies are known to do business in Iran.

The companies include Bent Tal, United Technologies Products. ITT Corporation, Raytheon, Re/Max Real Estate, Magnum Research Inc., Oshkosh Corporation, Kahr Arms and Elbit Systems. A senior Iranian lawmaker meanwhile said Iran would consider a bill branding the U.S. military and the CIA as terrorist groups if the U.S. Congress passes a bill designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Such moves could heighten tensions in Iraq and Syria, where Iranian-backed forces and a U.S.-led coalition are battling the Islamic State group.

Allaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, was quoted by state TV as saying the move to further sanction the Revolutionary Guard goes against the 2015 nuclear deal Iran reached with the United States and other world powers.

Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations since 1979, when militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy and took 52 Americans hostages for 444 days.

Search teams battle the elements in struggle to reclaim crew’s remains

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains Keeping a vigil: A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continues for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Photo: Steve Humphreys Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

  • Search teams battle the elements in struggle to reclaim crew’s remains

    Eight days into the search for the three missing crew members of Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 116, the weather changed, bringing with it a welcome ray of hope for their families.

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Eight days into the search for the three missing crew members of Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 116, the weather changed, bringing with it a welcome ray of hope for their families. Shortly after daybreak last Wednesday, the Irish Lights ship, Granuaile, took up position near Blackrock Island, off the north Mayo coast, and dispatched a robot into the depths on a reconnaissance mission, the first of several operations in recent days.

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

Capt Mark Duffy Photo: Tom Conachy

Its official title is “remotely operated vehicle” but it is known as an ROV, nicknamed the John Holland 1, in honour of the Clare man who designed the first commercially successful submarine. Operated by the Marine Institute of Ireland, it is a sophisticated piece of equipment. It is kitted out with cameras, powerful lights and has five “function manipulators” such as a cutting function, which are intended to allow it take samples from the sea floor.

Read more: Body found inside wreckage of Rescue 116 in search for missing crew members – but identity not confirmed[2]

On this occasion, John Holland’s role was exploratory. It was lowered 40 metres down into the sea, some 50 miles from Black Rock, the lighthouse atop a tall, sheer rocky outcrop where the Rescue 116 went down around 1am on Tuesday, March 15. Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, the pilot, was the only one of the four crew to be recovered. Her colleagues, Captain Mark Duffy, winchman Ciaran Smith, and winch operator, Paul Ormsby, are missing.

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

Winch operator Paul Ormsby Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The Navy and Irish Coast Guard and the scientists from the Marine Institute and the others involved in the massive sea and coastal search were on the Granuaile as the ROV relayed back its images from the sea floor. There it was, the fuselage of Rescue 116, mangled but partially intact, upended on the sea bed, and exposed to the strong currents and tides that ripped through the channel in which it lay.

The cockpit was visible, and inside it, the body of one of the missing crew members was also discernible. It was not possible to identify the man, but his position close to the controls suggested that it could be Captain Mark Duffy, co-pilot of Rescue 116, experienced airman, father and husband, according to local sources. The ROV’s cameras could not reach other parts of the wreckage. The winchman, Ciaran Smith, and winch operator Paul Ormsby, would have been in the body of the helicopter.

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

Search Teams Battle The Elements In Struggle To Reclaim Crew's Remains

Winchman Ciaran Smith

But there was no way of confirming that they were there, although the hope is that they were somewhere with the wreckage.

Read more: Second crew member of Rescue 116 is located[3]

As it transpired, relatives of the missing crewmen were on the LE Eithne, the Naval patrol ship, in the waters near Blackrock Island when word of the breakthrough came. They were briefed on what on had been discovered, and they prayed for all four crew members that were on board. Shortly afterwards, heavy winds whipped up the sea, the ROV was recalled and the families and the rescue mission returned to shore.

Later that evening, at a press briefing, the search teams hailed the discovery of the main fuselage. The images of a body in the wreckage was deemed too sensitive to share. It was last Friday before the rescue mission would return to the waters of Blackrock Island. The dive operation took meticulous planning, involving teams of 12 divers from both the Navy and Gardai. The purpose was to explore the wreckage, to determine how best the body of the crewman could be brought ashore, and whether it was possible to locate the others. In seas surging with currents and tides, safety was the priority. They descended in relays in teams of four, spending 40 to 45 minutes in the water, most of that spent ascending or descending the 37 meters to the sea floor.

The divers recovered the blackbox – having already been instructed on where they would find it in the wreckage in a pre-dive planning session. But the debris and limited visibility restricted their vision to two to three metres. The body of the crewman remained difficult to access in the wreckage, his equipment and flying gear making it difficult to identify him. That wasn’t helped by their visibility of two to three metres.

Read more: The heroes who put their lives on the line[4]

Late last Friday night, as the search teams confirmed at a press briefing, that a body had indeed been located in the wreckage. But they could not, and still have not, confirmed who it is. Searches continued yesterday, the sea search hampered again by weather but with teams continuing to walk the coast and the shore, in search of debris.

Today, the search teams are hoping to send divers down again, to return the body of the crew man to his family, and to locate his two colleagues. The operation will require meticulous planning, to decide how best to remove him safely.

“Everything is down to the weather. If the swell moderates, diving is possible,” said a source on the search team. As for the wreckage, the Air Accident Investigation Unit confirmed last Monday that the helicopter went down off Blackrock after its tail struck rocks. There appear to be no further clues as to why that happened.

“The helicopter is down there for 11 days. There is a huge movement of water there that will throw it around like a rag doll. The damage caused will have no relevance to the impact of the accident,” said one source.

There has been criticism of Air Corps for not providing cover for a rescue mission of a fisherman off the Mayo Coast, which is why Rescue 116 was called out in its place. This weekend, the Defence Forces released figures confirming that the Irish Coast Guard asked the Air Corps three times for “top cover” in 2016 but was turned down because personnel were not available. The same year, it was unable to respond to 13 Air Ambulance requests.

Speaking at a press briefing last night, Inspector Gary Walsh, from the Mayo garda division, said: “The ROV has been in the water on different occasions but it’s still not possible to free the trapped individual in the aircraft.

“The site scan is continuing and there’s an additional piece of equipment out there, it’s an underwater camera that’s being used to scan the broader site in the search for the missing two crew members.

“No dive will take place today due to the sea swell but it is hoped that dives can take place tomorrow [Sunday].

Read more: Dive teams hoping for ‘weather window’ to continue search for missing Rescue 116 crew members[5]

“The ROV has been doing most of the work today. At the moment the Supt, Chief Supt and all the relevant command personnel from the various agencies are aboard the Granuaile, they’re having a command meeting to assess what the best approach is between now and darkness and to see what work the ROV can do to free the trapped individual on board.

“It’s being assessed all the time; the garda water unit hope to get down. They’ve done preparatory dives- they’re ready to go if they get a window of opportunity.

“They’re in a position to dive on the wreck if they get a window of opportunity to do it. The navy will maintain their current position and the garda water unit is hoping to do a wider sweep in the search for the other two.

“The garda water unit have the exact same capabilities as the navy divers.

“They’re hoping there’ll be less of a sea swell (tomorrow). There’s a three-metre swell at the moment, which isn’t favourable at all.”

(Additional reporting by Robin Schiller)

Sunday Independent


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The heroes who put their lives on the line

The Heroes Who Put Their Lives On The Line Mountain and cave rescue specialist John Kavanagh, who is a member of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team, near the Scalp in Dublin Mountains. Photo: Frank Mc Grath The Heroes Who Put Their Lives On The Line

  • The heroes who put their lives on the line

    It is a tradition dating back more than a century. When bodies are lost at sea, coastal communities show their respect by leaving lighted candles on their windowsills.

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It is a tradition dating back more than a century. When bodies are lost at sea, coastal communities show their respect by leaving lighted candles on their windowsills. For more than a week, they have been doing just that in the fishing villages around Blacksod in Mayo. It is a small gesture to show solidarity with those who risk their lives on the water and to acknowledge the devastating power of the Atlantic Ocean.

The deaths of four Coast Guard helicopter crew Dara Fitzpatrick, Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy and Ciar n Smith have reverberated across the country, but especially in those places that hug the coast. The distinctive orange and white Coast Guard choppers are a common and reassuring sight and the loss of Rescue 116 is felt sharply. This tragedy and that last summer of Caitr ona Lucas, a Coast Guard crew member based in Doolin, Co Clare highlights the precarious situations search and rescue volunteers can find themselves in. Although every precaution is taken, these men and women risk their lives in order to save others.

Nobody thinks about them until you need them yourself, says Ray Doyle, a bus driver from Mallow, Co Cork. I owe my life to the RNLI. I was just minutes from drowning when they saved me.

The 44-year-old father-of-four had been kayaking alone in the sea near the beach at Youghal last month when his craft capsized. I had been momentarily distracted and a small ripple toppled the kayak over, he says. I didn t have enough upper body strength to get back into it and when I tried to swim to shore, I seemed to keep getting pushed out to sea. The panic set in then and I started to roar and shout but nobody seemed to hear me. Luckily, his distress was spotted by a couple on the beach and the lifeboat was called. Just before they got to me, when I had no idea they were on the way, I had resigned myself to the thought that I was about to die. It was a strange feeling of calm, but the rescuers told me that that was a sign that my body had started to shut down. Such a rescue mission was about as simple as it gets for the RNLI the Royal National Lifeboat Institute but often such volunteers face very dangerous conditions whether it s on land or sea.

I d be lying if I told you I ve never felt fear, says one lifeboat volunteer, based on the south coast.

There have been times where we ve been out in really bad conditions and you re in a small boat looking out at enormous waves. You know you ve been very well trained, and you know you ve got great colleagues and the best equipment, but every now and again there s that feeling of what am I doing out here?

It s a conversation I ve had with others and they feel it too, especially those who have young children.

It s a bit like someone who s used to flying and has no fear of it but gets the jitters when they re caught up in bad turbulence. But the feeling evaporates when you have a successful mission and you know that you ll be out there again the next time.

RT s south-east correspondent Damien Tiernan has long been fascinated by those who work the sea and the brave volunteers who help keep them and us safe. His book, Souls of the Sea, written about a series of fishing tragedies that hit the Dunmore East community in January 2007, honoured both.

Often, you ll find that people who volunteer for lifeboats are either fishermen and women themselves or those who come from a fishing family. They have a deep connection to the sea and a huge respect for the water and they want to give something back, even if they ve no interest in fishing themselves.

There s a wonderful community of rescuers, too. They ll come from inland waterways to help on the coastline if they can and the Coast Guard helicopter is held in huge regard it s like a safety net. And it s not just coastal areas that rely on it, but mountainous regions too. Sometimes it s the only safe way to get an injured person safely down. The RNLI s lifesaving manager, Gareth Morrison, says those who give their time and expertise to search-and-rescue missions are a special breed. They re people who feel compelled to help others and who are willing to take calculated risks in order to save somebody else s life, he says. We get all kinds of people. But inside the lifeboat, everyone is equal and they work as a team. And that s the thing about rescue work it s never an individual pursuit; it s always about the strength of a team. When the RNLI was founded way back in 1824 its service was almost exclusively needed by fishermen and those whose profession revolved around the sea. Today, this charity and others like it are in high demand due to the huge increase in the recreational use of water.

And, yet, 50pc of the people we rescue had no intention of getting wet, Morrison says. By that I mean they could have been standing on a pier or walking the dog along the banks of a river and they fell in. Tragedy can happen so easily and unexpectedly.

It s a sentiment echoed by those who provide rescue services on land. No hillwalker sets off with the intention of getting injured and being unable to make contact with others, but it happens a lot.

Read more: It can be a scary environment… the weather changes so quickly[2]

The Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue service, to name but one of many that operate throughout the country, was called upon 66 times last year. Different challenges face those rescuers than their sea-going counterparts, but dangers are present too, particularly when visibility becomes poor as is often the case when mist descends, particularly on the west coast. This week, volunteers were continuing to search for the bodies of Rescue 116, and Damien Tiernan has seen at first-hand how heartbreaking it can be for families not to have a body to bury.

It can be really devastating, he says, and unfortunately some families who lose people to sea never get to have that closure.

Even 20 years on, you hear of people standing on the shoreline and looking out across the water and wondering where their loved ones are.

It’s not just the rescuer making a commitment, our families do, too

John Kavanagh (37), IT consultant and mountain rescuer, Dublin/Wicklow

The allure of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains were ever-present for John Kavanagh when he was growing up in Tallaght. Joining the Scouts at age seven introduced him to a world of nature far removed from the endless housing estates of west Dublin.

“As corny as it might sound,” he says, “being in the Scouts didn’t just give me a love of the great outdoors, it instilled the idea of being socially responsible, of helping other people.”

Joining a caving club at college proved to be the gateway to his work with Dublin Wicklow Mountain Rescue and his membership of the Irish Cave Rescue Organisation. “It’s very gratifying because you know you’re involved in something that could save somebody’s life,” he says. Already this year he estimates he has been involved in a dozen search missions. “You’re on call all the time, even Christmas Day, and if you’re in a position to go out and help, you do that.”

He admits there is an element of danger, particularly when on the side of a mountain in inclement conditions, but he and his crew do everything they can to ensure their own safety. “We don’t put ourselves into situations where we are at risk of becoming another casualty. That wouldn’t help anybody.”

Usually, there’s a happy ending to mountain rescue missions, and a hillwalker, for instance, is safely located, uninjured. But sometimes, rescuers are confronted by death. “You do see traumatic incidents,” he says, “and we have policies in place to help anyone traumatised. You look out for each other as you would in any team.”

John Kavanagh believes a support network is crucial. “It’s not just us rescuers who make a commitment, but spouses, children, other family members, work colleagues who allow us the time to go away to do this and step into the breach.

“We couldn’t do it without them.”

Read more: My life was saved by rescuers and now I try to do my bit, too[3]

Indo Review


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