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Irish Coast Guard helicopter crash: Wreckage found off Co Mayo coast

The wreckage of Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 has been found off the Co Mayo coast.

Efforts are continuing on searches to recover the bodies of three missing crewmen - Captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciaran Smith - after the helicopter crashed on March 14.

Search crews said they are "hopeful" the bodies of the missing crew could be inside.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, 45, was pulled from the Atlantic off the Co Mayo coast - around six miles (10km) west of Blacksod - deemed critically-ill, but later confirmed dead.

She was the mother of a three-year-old son.

On Wednesday the wreckage was found some 60 metres off Blackrock Island.

Speaking at Blacksod lighthouse from where the operation is being coordinated, Supt Tony Healy said: "This morning a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) from the Granuaile conducted operations on the sea bed and we located parts of Rescue 116.

"We're actively assessing what we found...this is a hugely significant step in the ongoing process of the crew of rescue 116".

This is close to the spot where a signal from the black box recorder was located last week.

The Dublin-based helicopter crew was providing cover for another Coast Guard helicopter involved in an early-morning evacuation of a crewman needing urgent medical attention on a UK-registered trawler, approximately 150 miles (240km) west of Eagle Island in Co Mayo.

It had flown directly to the scene from the Irish capital, travelled around 10 miles (16km) out to sea, then turned back towards land to refuel.

There was no indication of any danger moments before it vanished, with the crew's final transmission: "Shortly landing at Blacksod."

Visibility was described as not good at the time.

When the helicopter failed to arrive, a Mayday signal went out and Coast Guard helicopters from Sligo and Shannon along with the Air Corps maritime patrol aircraft Casa were tasked to the scene.

They were joined by lifeboats from Ballyglass and Achill, the Naval Service's LE Roisin ship and five local fishing vessels.

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