Mourners gather for funeral of 'talented and generous' hero Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
The captain of a Coast Guard helicopter that crashed into the Atlantic during a rescue mission was a brave hero, an adoring mother and a champion of the underdog, her funeral Mass has heard.
Mother-of-one Dara Fitzpatrick, 45, was among the four crew members of a Sikorsky S92 that disappeared without warning off Co Mayo, in the west of Ireland, on Tuesday.
Hundreds of mourners gathered at St Patrick's Church in Glencullen, Co Dublin.
The funeral cortege arrived at 11am and was met by an honour guard from the Coast Guard and other rescue services.
Captain Fitpatrick's parents, four siblings, her young son Fionn, and other family members accompanied the coffin into the church.
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were among those attending.
Rescue 117 did a flyby over the church in tribute to their fallen colleague.
In his homily, Fr. Andrew O’ Sullivan told mourners: "Dara’s tragic death has stunned all of us gathered here this morning. In particular, it has created a deep void in the lives of her loving family who are truly heartbroken. The reality of death with all its pain and sense of terrible loss, confronts us at this moment."
He told mourners Captain Fitzpatrick and her missing colleagues were heroes: "We are expressing gratitude to the Fitzpatrick family for moulding Dara into that wonderful young woman and mother that she was. Over the last few days many stories have been told about Dara and how she was a wonderful colleague and friend and indeed of the incredible professionalism and bravery of those in the coastguard and in our emergency services. How these extraordinary people put their own lives at risk in order to save others – what bravery. And they truly are heroes."
He also spoke of Dara's other loves in life: "Dara loved travelling and had so many adventures. She was not only a professional and talented pilot and excelled in what she did, but also, a great horsewoman, she loved donkeys; a hillwalker and an adventurer.
"Dara was quite shy and she hated “small talk”. She was kind to her core and a champion of the underdog. She was fiercely loyal and her family was of paramount importance to her…. Her family describe her sense of humour as “goofy” and she had a great ability to find the fun in life. I know today, that Dara’s family take great consolation in the fact that she lived life to the full – she packed a lot in.
"Dara loved to cook and as her sisters say - she was a feeder – she made a mean chocolate roulade for her work colleagues and for home. Dara loved her clothes and most especially her Gucci boots and her Tom Ford perfume. As her family put it: a beautiful young woman, who of course, got her looks from her family.
"The day Dara formally adopted Fionn was one of the happiest days of her life and that of her family. Fionn, now embodies Dara’s characteristics of family – he loves to and often instigates the family group hug – Dara adored Fionn."
After the funeral, Ms Fitzpatrick's sister Niamh tweeted an inspiring message:
The search continues for the Coast Guard's Sikorsky S92 aircraft and the bodies of three men who have not been found since the helicopter disappeared without warning off Co Mayo early on Tuesday.
Debris has been located on Black Rock, a small island with a lighthouse and helipad 13km west of Blacksod on the Mayo coastline where the helicopter was due to refuel.
Investigators are now examining the theory that the aircraft suffered a sudden and serious mechanical failure which forced an emergency landing.
It comes as officials hope a "three-hour window" between low tides will be sufficient to find the submerged aircraft, amid fierce weather conditions.
They believe they have identified from preliminary sonar scans and beacon triangulation data the main wreckage of the downed Irish Coast Guard helicopter on the seabed.
Naval Service and salvage experts are now "very hopeful" that the bodies of the three missing Rescue 116 crewmen will be found trapped within the wrecked fuselage of the helicopter.
The wreckage lies at a depth of 40 metres, some 60 metres off Black Rock Island and lighthouse.