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Wreckage of crashed helicopter R116 found off Mayo coast

Helicopter 116 crew Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Four crew were on board the helicopter when it crashed during a coastguard operation last week

The wreckage of Irish Coast Guard helicopter R116 has been found off the Mayo coast in the Republic of Ireland, officials have said.

Four crew were on board the Sikorsky S92 when it crashed during a coastguard operation on 14 March.

The 45-year-old pilot, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, was recovered from the sea but died in hospital later that day.

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

"That is the absolute hope," Chief Inspector with the Air Accident Investigation Unit, Jurgen Whyte, told the broadcaster, RTÉ.

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Media captionChief Inspector with the Air Accident Investigation Unit Jurgen Whyte said they hope the bodies are inside the wreck

"We have the wreckage, it's now just a matter of getting a weather window."

The families of Captain Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciaran Smith have been informed of the latest development.

The wreck has been located about 60m off Blackrock island, and is lying on the seabed at a depth of about 40m, the Irish Coast Guard said.

A remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), fitted with an underwater camera, was deployed in the search operation on Wednesday morning, eight days after the crash.

However, it was not yet able to confirm if any bodies are inside the wreckage.

The wreck was found close to where a signal from the helicopter's black box recorder was detected last week.

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Media captionSupt Tony Healy said the discovery of the wreckage was a 'hugely significant step'

A recovery operation will now take place, but search teams will have to take account of weather conditions, which have already hampered the search.

Relatives of the crew are to visit the site later in an Irish naval ship.

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny joined hundreds of mourners at Capt Fitzpatrick's funeral on Saturday.

Her sister told the funeral Mass that "God owes us, he owes us to bring home Dara's three colleagues who are still missing".

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