Dive teams hoping for 'weather window' to continue search for missing Rescue 116 crew members
Dive teams are hoping a weather window will open on Friday to allow them to examine the wreckage of an Irish Coast Guard helicopter which crashed into the Atlantic over a week ago.
"Conditions are improving all the time," Declan Geoghegan of the Irish Coast Guard said.
"There'll be an exploratory dive hopefully. The ROV can only tell us so much. The human eye is much better. Once the divers go down they will have a much more positive idea of things."
Minister with Responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe and Minister for Regional Economic Development Michael Ring have visited Blacksod and have been briefed on the search efforts thus far.
Mr Ring expressed his sympathies to the families of the four crew members while paying tribute to the efforts being made by rescue workers and the local community.
"The people that are here behind me today providing food. The people that are putting their lives at risk going out on the boats, the people that have gone out searching the last number of days.
"I want to compliment this community. This is what rural life is about, this is what rural communities are about and I can not praise this community enough," Mr Ring said.
Speaking at a press briefing at Blacksod lighthouse on Thursday night, Supt Tony Healy said that recordings of the wreckage, taken by an underwater robot, were also being analysed to determine if the three crewmen were on board.
"We had two clear goals today. One was in relation to the ROV descending at the bottom this morning to clear the site to enable the navy divers to do a dive.
"The second was to do more underwater searching with the ROV and we're in the process of analysing that data," Supt Healy said.
The senior garda stated that all objectives had been met as part of the search, which included detecting a signal from the aircraft's black box.
An underwater robot has already been re-deployed to examine the wreckage of Rescue 116 and attempt to locate its three missing crew members.
The Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) was launched from the Irish Light's vessel, the Granuaile, this afternoon.
Equipped with high definition cameras and two robotic arms, the Holland 1 carried out further examinations along the sea bed where the main section of the aircraft has been located.
This site is 40m deep and close to where a signal from the helicopter's black box was detected.
Investigators and search teams have not yet been able to establish if the three missing crewmen- Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby- are with the wreckage.
The fourth crew member and pilot, Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, was recovered in a critical condition but later pronounced dead.
The AAIU has said it believed the tail of Rescue 116 hit rocks on the western end of the island, about 13km (eight miles) off the Mayo coast 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."
It is hoped that the members of the Naval Service team can be deployed tomorrow morning in order to carry out a detailed examination of the wreckage, which is located 60m from Black Rock island.
Rescue workers and investigators have stated the weather conditions are expected to be favourable tomorrow, but stressed that divers will only be used if safe to do so.
Last night the navy vessel, the LE Samuel Beckett arrived at Blacksod Bay from where the operation is being coordinated.
Additional reporting from PA