Investigators from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) have confirmed that wreckage from Coast Guard helicopter R116 shows impact ‘consistent with the tail of the aircraft contacting rocky surfaces’.

Blackrock Island

Blackrock Island, 13km off the Mayo coast

It is believed the Sikorsky S-92 stuck rocks on the western end of Blackrock Island, 13km off the Mayo coast. The exact nature of the damage and the circumstances of the accident remain unknown.

Capt Dara Fitzpatrick’s body was recovered shortly after the incident late on Monday March 13. Her colleagues, pilot Mark Duffy and winchmen Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby are still missing.

In a statement issued by the AAIU (20/03), Jurgen Whyte along with the investigator-in-charge, Paul Farrell, said the investigation would be ‘evidence based’, assisted by the Garda Síochána, Coast Guard, Irish Air Corps, the Marine Institute, agencies and the local community. Their primary objective is location and recovery of the missing crew.

In accordance with international convention, the AAIU is being assisted by an Accredited Representative from the US National Transportation Safety Board; advisers from the US Federal Aviation Administration and the aircraft manufacturer. The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch is also giving assistance.

The AAIU has visited Blackrock Island at the approaches to Blacksod Bay which is close to the last recorded position of the helicopter. Forensic examination of recovered wreckage found on the island and at sea is underway while the search continues for the black box containing voice and flight data.

A signal believed to be from the helicopter’s black box indicates an approximate location and will be the focus of further investigation in the next weather window.