Updated: 24/03/17 : 06:38:24
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Divers prepare to search R116 wreckage at 9am

Dives to the wreckage of Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter 116 are due to commence off Blackrock Island in Co Mayo this morning.

RTÉ reports that search coordinators are hopeful that an improvement in weather conditions will allow Naval Service divers to carry out detailed examinations of the helicopter.

It is hoped that the three missing crew members - Captain Mark Duffy, Winch Operator Paul Ormsby and Winchman Ciaran Smith may still be in the wreckage.

Detailed mapping of the undersea conditions has been carried out in recent days and images gathered by specialist cameras have been reviewed by the multiple agencies involved in the operation.

The wreckage is located in waters 60m off the western face of Blackrock, at a depth of around 40m.

Wind conditions in the area have eased considerably and the forecast is for fair or fine weather with good visibility.

Specialist equipment was loaded onto boats at Blacksod pier yesterday evening in anticipation of those favourable sea conditions.

Divers are due to depart for the scene this morning and will begin extensive preparations for their task as soon as they arrive at Blackrock.

Low tide at the site of the wreckage occurs at just after 9am.

It is anticipated that divers will go to the wreckage in pairs, diving for a maximum of ten minutes at a time.

All the agencies involved are stressing that safety concerns will take precedence throughout the operation.

At a briefing at Blacksod Lighthouse last night, Superintendent Tony Healy said the hope was that the three crew were in or near the wreckage.

He said the conditions for underwater exploration of the helicopter were the best that search teams had experienced so far.

The Chief Investigator with the Air Accident Investigation Unit Jurgen Whyte said a lot of information had been gathered and that everything possible was being done to assist the dive process. He said he was confident that dive conditions would be good for a number of days.

Mr Whyte said the priority was to recover the three crew members before efforts were made to access the flight recorder.