DUBLIN, March 14 (Xinhua) -- A search operation for three missing Irish Coast Guard crew members continued overnight following a helicopter crash off the west coast of County Mayo early this morning.
The Dublin-based coast guard helicopter, R116, with four crew on board, went missing at about 1 a.m. local time (0100 GMT). Captain Dara Fitzpatrick died in Mayo University Hospital. She was transferred to the hospital after being found in a critical condition.
Fitzpatrick was a senior pilot with the Irish Coast Guard, which she has served for over 20 years.
Gerard O'Flynn, the search and rescue operations manager of the Irish Coast Guard, said the air search for the missing crew members were scaled back but the sea search continued overnight.
The three crew still missing have been named as Mark Duffy, Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby.
The sea search for the other three members was being carried out around 10 km west of Blacksod, County Mayo. Small amounts of debris have been found on the sea surface. It is reported that a fuel tank from the missing helicopter may have been located.
Flynn said there was no prior warning before the helicopter went missing.
He said there has been no indication about what happened and that the air accident Investigation team will be conducting a full investigation into the incident.
"This was a shock, the helicopter just simply disappeared. Communications was lost. Once communications was lost, an emergency procedure was initiated, a search was immediately initiated," he added.
According to air accident investigators, recovering the missing helicopter's black box flight data recorders could be vital to solving what happened the aircraft.
But the black boxes have not yet been found.
Water in the area is between 30 and 50 meters deep. Currently, rescue personnel were searching through debris and fuel.
In another development, Irish Transport Minister Shane Ross pledged that no resources will be spared in the search for the remaining missing crew members.
However, Eugene Clonan, head of operations of the Irish Coast Guard, said he was "not holding out much hope" for the missing crew.
He said the last communication with Rescue 116 was at 12:45 a.m. local time when it said it was approaching Blacksod to refuel after providing support to another helicopter, Rescue 118, and that there was no indication of any problem.
In a press release, the Irish Coast Guard said a Sligo-based coast guard helicopter, R118, completed an early morning medical evacuation of a crewman requiring urgent medical attention from a Britain registered fishing vessel approximately 150 miles west of Eagle Island in County Mayo.
"Owing to the distance involved, safety and communication support, known as Top Cover, was provided by the second coast guard helicopter, the Dublin-based R116," the Irish Coast Guard said.
Clonan said Rescue 116, a Sikorsky S92, was a very new aircraft and had had regular maintenance checks.
The helicopter is one of four in regular operation by the Irish Coast Guard.
The Sikorsky S92, which replaced the old S61 models, is manufactured to allow for long range missions of up to 365 nautical miles and improved cruising speeds. It is also equipped with enhanced technologies. It can hover in strong crosswinds or tailwinds of up to 35 knots.
Clonan said this helicopter has all the safety equipment onboard, adding that the crew themselves have immersion suits, life jackets, helmets and have training for these types of emergencies.