Divers hope to free body of crewman from Irish Coast Guard helicopter


Divers hope ocean swells ease enough today to allow them to free the body of a crewman from the wreck of an Irish Coast Guard helicopter on the Atlantic seabed.

The remains were discovered on Friday in the cockpit of Rescue 116 off Blackrock island, about 13km (eight miles) off the coast of Co Mayo.

The wreck lies 40m down with divers needing swells below 3m for a safe recovery operation.

The body of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, a 45-year-old mother-of-one, was the first one of the four crew to have been recovered from the ocean.

The other crew members were Captain Mark Duffy, Winchman Ciaran Smith and Winch Operator Paul Ormsby.

No dives took place on Saturday but a remotely operated vehicle was used to clear some of the mangled wreckage and open access to the cockpit.

If swells fall back divers will again work in relays, with pairs spending no more than 10 minutes on the seabed at a time.

An underwater camera was also being used around the wreck site in a bid to find the bodies of the two crew members who are still missing.

Nine drones were deployed on the coast of Mullet peninsula and around Erris Head to comb the shoreline.

The air search, being led by Irish Coast Guard helicopters, was extended along north Mayo and into Donegal bay.

Some small pieces of debris from the crash were also discovered between Blacksod and Annagh Head.

The black box, which holds the flight data and voice records, was taken from the wreckage on Friday and is being flown to Farnborough in England for analysis.

There was no apparent damage to the unit.

Air accident investigators will dry it and attempt to download the data at a special facility during the next week.

The AAIU has said it believed the tail of Rescue 116 hit rocks on the western end of the island as it returned from supporting a rescue mission to refuel at Blacksod.

There was no indication of any danger moments before the Sikorsky S92 vanished, with the crew's final transmission: "Shortly landing at Blacksod."