Latest: Searches continue for Coast Guard crewmen after helicopter recovered from sea

Update 9pm: Searches are to continue for two missing Irish Coast Guard crew members after a major operation to lift their helicopter from the sea failed to locate them.

The wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter was lifted from the Atlantic seabed on Sunday evening by search crews.

However, there was no sign of the two missing crew members, Paul Ormsby and Ciaran Smith, who have been missing since Rescue 116 was lost on March 14.

Search agencies told RTÉ that their efforts to find the missing crewmen will continue as long as there is hope of locating them.

Lifting equipment was attached to the wreckage by Naval Service dive teams on Sunday when weather conditions improved. After a lengthy operation just off Blackrock island, about 13km (eight miles) off the coast of Co Mayo, it was eventually brought to the surface.

The aircraft was then taken from the water and placed on board the Irish Lights vessel, the Granuaile.

The Granuaile arrives back into Blacksod, Co. Mayo, Ireland, with wreckage from Coastguard helicopter Rescue 116 onboard. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

It is almost three weeks since the helicopter crashed into Blackrock Island with four crew members on board.

The bodies of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Captain Mark Duffy have been recovered.

Previous rescue dives have been hampered by ocean swells. A remotely-operated vehicle was used to clear some of the mangled wreckage and open access to the cockpit.

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

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."

The inquiry into the cause of the crash is now likely to focus on operational issues.

Update 7.40pm: The wreckage of Rescue 116 has been lifted from the sea.

Navy divers today managed to attach straps to the fusealage and the lifting operation got underway this evening.

However, there is still no trace of the two missing crew members, winchmen Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby.

"I just can confirm that we have recovered the wreckage after an operation that was in place the last couple of days but unfortunately there has been no evidence of anything to do with the casualties which is very unfortunate," said Gerard O'Flynn, who is with the Irish Coast Guard.

"It remains very challanging for the families, but I can assure the families that the search will continue."

Update - 1.10pm: Navy divers have attached lifting equipment to the wreckage of the coastguard helicopter submerged off Mayo.

Search teams want to move the aircraft in their search for two missing crew men.

The bodies of captain Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy have been recovered since the crash over two weeks ago.

However, the remains of winchmen Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby have yet to be found.

The Coast Guard's search and rescue operations manager Gerard O'Flynn said: "Well following on from a very successful ROV operation overnight, Navy divers were in the water this morning and they completed the tasks which were assigned to them in terms of securing lifting straps to the target.

"We are now assessing the situation, the weather has deteriorated considerably."

Update - 10am: The Coast Guard are confident that divers will be able to get back down to the wreckage of the Rescue 116 helicopter today.

Search teams want to move the aircraft in their search for two missing crew men.

Black Box evidence yesterday revealed there was no mechanical issue when the helicopter went down off the Mayo coast near the Blackrock Lighthouse over two weeks ago.

The Coast Guard's search and rescue operations manager, Gerard O'Flynn, said: "Conditions are more favourable this morning for diving, so we are confident divers will be able to get into the water.

"However, the forecast for later in the day is not favourable, obviously the situation is being continually assessed, but we are confident that diving will be able to get underway this morning."

Earlier: It is hoped diving can get underway today at the wreckage of Rescue 116, after poor weather hampered efforts yesterday.

Search teams say they want to try move the helicopter to gather information on the whereabouts of the two crewmen who are still missing.

The Air Accident Investigations Unit revealed last night that it doesn't appear there was a mechanical issue with the aircraft.

The Coast Guard's Gerard O'Flynn said: "Well yesterday weather conditions precluded diving operations but we did have a very successful evening of ROV searching which went late on into the night.

"It is a success in that a lot of the previously unsearched area was thoroughly searched.

"Early this morning we are reviewing the options for diving and based on that decision then we will work out a programme for the rest of the day."


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