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  • Southside

Tributes paid to local helicopter pilot hero

Monday, 20th March, 2017 2:00pm
Tributes paid to local helicopter pilot hero

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

Tributes paid to local helicopter pilot hero

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

TRIBUTES have been paid on the Southside to Kilternan woman, Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who lost her life in last week’s helicopter crash off the coast of Mayo.

She was one of four crew members on board Rescue 116 which crashed six miles west of Blacksod.

Three members of the missing crew from Rescue 116, Mark Duffy, Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby, also lost their lives in the tragedy.

Captain Fitzpatrick, an extremely experienced pilot who had almost 20 years’ service with the Coast Guard, had been rescued in critical condition but later died in hospital.

She was a high-profile water safety campaigner and often spoke publicly about her love for her challenging job.

She is survived by her three-year-old son.

Her family led tributes to her.

“We are so proud of Dara’s work and all she has done to save the lives of others over the years,” they said in a statement to Today FM.

“We are completely heartbroken and we pray for the recovery of the other three crew.

“She is survived by her three-year-old son, her three sisters, brother and her parents.”

Speaking to RTÉ News, Dara’s father John said the situation was“horrendous” and “absolutely heart-breaking”, but that the family feels “tremendous pride” for Dara and the work she was doing.

Her sister, leading psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick, also paid tribute to her on Twitter.

“My brave sister Capt Dara Fitzpatrick lost her life,” she Tweeted. “We are devastated. Please pray for recovery of 3 remaining crew”.

Tributes have poured in from across the country for Captain Fitzpatrick with President Michael D Higgins describing the tragedy as a “dark day” for the Coast Guard.

“Today marks a dark day in the history of the Coast Guard/Garda Cósta na hÉireann, with a member of this important service losing her life while providing assistance to others,” he said.

“On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I pay tribute to Captain Dara Fitzpatrick who died today.

“We are all grateful for the courage, resolution and exemplary commitment to the aims of the Coast Guard that Captain Fitzpatrick and her colleagues have consistently displayed.

“My thoughts are with her family at this difficult moment and also with the families of the missing crew.”

President Higgins added: “It is appropriate that we acknowledge and pay tribute to the efforts of her colleagues at the Coast Guard who have been working at a time, which must be for them, a time of great grief and uncertainty.  

“May I also commend the other emergency services, as well as those from local communities in Mayo, who responded so valiantly, and in great solidarity, at this time of tragedy.”

Sinn Féin councillor Chris Curran also paid tribute to Captain Fitzpatrick and said his thoughts were with her family, friends, colleagues and neighbours in Kilternan.

“It was with great sadness that the entire country woke up to the news of the missing coastguard helicopter and then later in the day heard that Captain Fitzpatrick had been found and pronounced dead,” Cllr Curran said.

“To learn that Captain Fitzpatrick was a local Kilternan woman brings a greater sense of grief to the area but also a sense of pride in Dara and the service she gave this State.

“Also in my thoughts are the families and friends of the other crew members who are missing at this time.”

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here