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Sister leads tributes to 'brave' Captain Dara Fitzpatrick who lost life in Coast Guard crash

She was a well-known senior pilot with the Coast Guard.

PastedImage-84579 Irish Coast Guard Irish Coast Guard

Updated 6.45pm

WELL-KNOWN PILOT Dara Fitzpatrick has been named as the first casualty of this morning’s rescue helicopter crash.

Gerard O’Flynn, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, confirmed her death to reporters at Blacksod in Mayo this afternoon.

She was recovered from the water in a critical condition at first light today, hours after Rescue 116 disappeared. She was later pronounced dead.

O’Flynn said it is a “difficult time” for her company CHC Helicopter and the Coast Guard.

“Dara is the most senior pilot with CHC – with the company close to 20 years,” he told reporters.

“Outside of her work as a pilot, she did an enormous amount of work in water safety and was always available to do school visits and highlight basic water safety.

“For all of us involved in the Coast Guard, and particularly her family, it does come as a big shock and we want to extend our sincere sympathies to her sympathy to all her family and indeed to her flying colleagues at CHC.” / YouTube

Captain Fitzpatrick’s sister, psychologist and Today FM agony aunt Niamh Fitzpatrick, said the family are devastated by the loss of her “brave sister”, asking on Twitter for prayers for the other crew members of Rescue 116.

A search operation for the three men is ongoing. The Coast Guard helicopters on scene off the Mayo coast are being assisted in their search by the Air Corps Casa, RNLI boats, the Naval Services’s LE Róisín, garda divers and local fishing vessels.

History maker 

Fitzpatrick began flying in 1990 and started working in search and rescue in March 1993, moving from Shannon to Waterford after almost 10 years.

In 2013, she was part of the Coast Guard’s first ever all-female mission alongside her co-pilot Carmel Kirby.

“I first went up in a helicopter when I was about 18 and was immediately sold on it – I thought it was the business. And that, pretty much, was it,” she told the Munster Express in 2009.

In a video made for students by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in 2008, she discussed her love for the job, as well as the difficulties it brings.

BishopsIreland / YouTube

Fitzpatrick was also filmed for a RTÉ documentary series on Rescue 117 which saw her crew followed for six months. At the time, the filmmakers described her as “one of only a handful of female civilian rescue pilots in the world”.

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

President Michael D Higgins described today is a dark one in the history of Garda Cósta na hÉireann.

“On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I pay tribute to Captain Dara Fitzpatrick who died today,” he said in a statement.

“We are 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.”

With reporting from Paul Hosford in Blacksod, Mayo and Michelle Hennessy

Read: Search continues for three members of Coast Guard helicopter crew

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