Dara Fitzpatrick pictured in Shannon a number of years ago Picture: Press 22
THE Irish Coast Guard pilot killed as a result of a tragic accident off the coast of Mayo has been remembered in Limerick - where she lived during her training - as “incredible” and “full of life”.
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick died this Tuesday after being recovered near the wreckage of the Dublin-based Rescue 116, which went missing off the Mayo coast at 1am on Tuesday.
Capt Fitzpatrick began her extensive career as a helicopter pilot in Shannon and lived in Knock Hill on the Ennis Road, across from the Greenhills Hotel, for a number of years in the late 90s.
It is understood that the other crew members lost in the crash may have also trained at Shannon.
Capt Fitzpatrick had over 20 years' flying experience and had returned again to Shannon in 2005 to train on the new SikorskyS92 helicopter for a time.
The Leader understands that she helped out in Milford Care Centre as a volunteer during her various stints in Limerick.
She was remembered by former Knock Hill neighbours Declan Carey and Harry Dickinson as “full of life; she was incredible”.
“We knew her really well - myself and Harry who work together, I saw it this morning and I was sure it wasn’t her. I said to my wife that she would be out looking for her friends. We just got the shocking news that it was her,” said Declan.
"I remember one day she took a whole load of us up in the helicopter and we went from Coonagh to Shannon. She was full of life, she was incredible.
“She was stunningly beautiful, and she was not afraid of anything, she was full of life, confidence - an incredible lady,” he said.
Harry said: “It is very sad, she was a lovely girl, a really, really nice girl. I remember her as being very driven, she was determined.”
Gerard O’Flynn, operations manager with the Coast Guard, said she was “was a very popular figure because of her sheer professionalism and her love of aviation and search and rescue”.
"Outside of that, her willingness to support any water safety initiative and her willingness to show off the aircraft, particularly to young people, I think she was very much a people person, but a very professional aviator."
He added that she was “probably the most experienced pilot in CHC”, the company which provides helicopter Search and Rescue services for the State and has a base in Shannon.
President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to Capt Fitzpatrick. He said the incident marked a “dark day in the history of the Coast Guard, with a member of this important service losing her life while providing assistance to others.
“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. 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.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny extended his "deepest sympathy" of the Government to Capt Fitzpatrick's family.
Speaking in the US, Mr Kenny said: "Obviously the search continues and on behalf of the Government again we pay our respects to the family of Dara Fitzpatrick. The search continues for other crew members.
"Clearly in the analysis and investigation into this we want to uncover what exactly happened in respect of the lack of communications and loss of contact with Rescue Helicopter 116," he added.
The Shannon-based Rescue 115 was involved in the extensive search operation for its missing sister crew, the Dublin-based Rescue 116 helicopter which vanished overnight at 1am this Tuesday while it was providing cover for another crew on a rescue mission.