Updated: 22/03/17 : 05:46:03
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ROV deployed in R116 recovery operation

Search teams have launched an underwater robot in the search for Rescue 116 and its three missing crewmen.

The deployment of the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) is seen as significant progress in the search operation.

Independent.ie reports that an improvement in conditions meant that the robot was launched before 8pm last night from the ILV Granuaile vessel.

However, it was withdrawn a short time later and is expected to be redeployed this morning, Wednesday.

The primary focus of the operation is the recovery of the three missing crewmen- Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby- while investigators are also hopeful to locate the helicopter's black box.

The underwater robot, named the Holland 1, will attempt to examine the wreckage of the Rescue 116 helicopter which is located in depths of 40m and approximately 60m off the Black Rock island.

A 13-man Naval Service dive team are also on standby at the Blacksod lighthouse from where the operation is being coordinated.

Below is a Multibeam Sonar image of the seabed taken by INFOMAR (Ireland's National Seabed Mapping Programme).

This multibeam data will allow the Granuaille to get closer into Blackrock to both deploy the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) and divers.

The ROV will use this multibeam data to safely navigate the terrain features identified on the seabed.

These features have been identified by INFOMAR data specialists as meriting further detailed inspection by ROV or divers currently on location.

Meanwhile, an evening prayer vigil was held in Blacksod on Tuesday evening for the families and crew of Rescue 116.

Dozens gathered near the Co Mayo bay to remember those affected following the downing of the Coast Guard helicopter last week.

The vigil at Fáil Móir against the snow-capped backdrop of Achill Head was attended by residents of the Erris area, rescue agency representatives, friends and colleagues of the four air crew, and volunteers who had travelled from many counties.

Prayers were said for the helicopter crew and their families, and for all those involved in the search effort since the helicopter lost communication in the early hours of March 14th.

Among those present were fishermen who put to sea in a heavy swell on Tuesday and combed the Inishkea islands.

Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) confirmed that they believe that the tail of Rescue 116 aircraft collided with rocks on the Black Rock island.

Investigations are now continuing with to ascertain exactly the initial point of impact.