Irish Coast Guard helicopter crash: Diving operations begin in search for missing Rescue 116
Diving operations have commenced off the Mayo coast in the search for three missing Irish Coast Guard members.
The Naval Service team were deployed shortly after 11.30am this morning from the Irish Light's vessel, the Granuaile.
An underwater robot had been used to carry out an examination of the wreckage of the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter, located in depths of 40m close to the Blackrock island.
Senior investigators stated that they were hopeful of progress being made throughout the day but stressed that information from the divers will need to be assessed before they can establish if the three crew men are with the wreckage.
Speaking at a press briefing this morning, Supt Tony Healy said: "This morning conditions are ideal, diving operations have commenced and we're waiting for reports back from the divers as soon as they come back on the surface."
He added that there was no indication at this stage if the three missing crew members- Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby- are with the aircraft's wreckage.
Jurgen Whyte of the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said that it had not yet been established what caused the Rescue 116 helicopter to collide with the Blackrock lighthouse located 12km off the Mayo coast.
Mr Whyte added that if divers are able locate he aircrafts flight recorder- commonly referred to as the black box- then they will retrieve it.
"As we said all along the important thing is that we get access to the cockpit voice recorder and the flight recorder. The priority has always been to recover the victims and if the divers happen to come across the recorder they will take the recorder. Because if we see it, we must take it because we can't leave it behind," he said.
A family liaison officer has been briefing the family members of the missing crew men on any developments in the search operation and investigation.
The Naval Service dive team will operate in pairs and will be able to spend nine minutes at the seabed before returning to the surface.
Air, shore and surface searches are also being carried out, with over 200 personnel from various agencies involved in the large scale operation.