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Wednesday 26 April 2017

'On the same day, 39 years apart, we lost two children' - Tragedy strikes Fitzpatrick family for second time

  • 'Dark cloud over Ireland'
  • Family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick pay tribute in emotional interview
  • Mystery surrounds crash at sea
  • Search for missing members resumes today

Capt Fitzpatrick's dad John and her sister Niamh Photo: RTE
Capt Fitzpatrick's dad John and her sister Niamh Photo: RTE
Capt Fitzpatrick's parents, John and Mary and her sister Niamh
The search continues for three missing Coast Guard members. Inset: Tragic Captain Dara Fitzpatrick died in incident
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
A sonar is placed over the side of a boat in the water to track the transponder during the search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
A sonar is placed in the water to track the transponder during the search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017
Dara Fitzpatrick
The seach continues at Blacksod Pier after the crash Photo: Steve Humphreys
A Coast Guard helicopter returns to Blacksod, Co Mayo Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash Photo: Steve Humphreys
A ship helps in the search mission Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Wreckage from the helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier Photo: Steve Humphreys
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
The Coast Guard Helicopter Crew at Blacksod Lighthouse this evening. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
A fisherman looks on disbelief as wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
Wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
Wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
Wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
The seach continues at Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
Wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
Wreckage from the Rescue 116 Helicopter is brought back to Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
The seach continues at Blacksod Pier after the Coastguard Helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 14th March 2017
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

The family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick have told of how 39 years ago, they tragically lost another child on the exact same day.

Capt Fitzpatrick's parents, John and Mary and her sister Niamh, gave an emotional interview to RTÉ's News at One.

They spoke of their previous experience with losing a child, and praised their daughters courageous and kind personality.

When asked where she got her strength from, her sister Niamh responded: "From the two people standing beside me."

"39 years ago, my parents had a stillborn, and on the same day, 39 years apart, they have now lost two of their six children," she said.

Her parents described her as being "beautiful, inside and out".

They spoke of how they stayed with her last night to make sure she wasn't alone.

"She always told us if anything ever happened, she never wanted to be left alone, so when we arrived down here last night at half 10 we decided we would do shifts.

"We kept our promise to her."

Her mother Mary said her three-year-old son meant everything to her, and vowed to raise him like she would have wanted.

The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash.
Pic Steve Humphreys
15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017

"She adopted a little boy and he was the light of her life and the light of our lives. We will bring him up like she would have wanted."

The three-year-old son of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick will not be short of love as he has a "whole village around him now", Niamh Fitzpatrick told Morning Ireland earlier today.

The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash.
Pic Steve Humphreys
15th March 2017
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017

Niamh, one of Capt Fitzpatrick's three sisters, said the family spent the night in the mortuary as they "couldn't bear to leave her alone".

Capt Fitzpatrick was one of four crew members on board the Coast Guard helicopter which crashed off the Mayo coast.

A sonar is placed in the water to track the transponder during the search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash.
Pic Steve Humphreys
15th March 2017
A sonar is placed in the water to track the transponder during the search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th March 2017

She was pilot and commander of Rescue 116.

The search for the remaining three crew members is ongoing today.

The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash.
Pic Steve Humphreys
The search and rescue at first light at Blacksod Pier after the Rescue 116 helicopter crash. Pic Steve Humphreys

Niamh was full of praise for her sister, and thanked their local community for rallying around the family.

"The family are heartbroken but we have no regrets where Dara is concerned. She lived her life to the full and did what she wanted to... she has a beautiful son," she said. 

"They say it takes a village to raise a child and he has a village around him now who will raise him on her behalf."

Niamh said the tragic incident is "still sinking in".

"I can’t say 'was' yet, even though I know she is not with us."

She spoke highly of her sister's attitude to her work, saying she took on everything with a positive outlook.

"She was the first female commercial pilot in the country and then went on to be the first female captain in the country.

"It never occurred to Dara, never in all the years we joked about things as a family, that she couldn't do this because she was female.

"It wasn't easy for her crew to work in a male environment. In terms of doing the job, there was never any question of her gender having anything to do with it," she added.

Irish Coast Guard Personnel pictured searching the shoreline at Belmullet for signs of the Missing Coast Guard Aircrew.
PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Irish Coast Guard Personnel pictured searching the shoreline at Belmullet for signs of the Missing Coast Guard Aircrew. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Heavy seas at Blacksod Bay which hampered search efforts for the missing crewmen of THe Coast Guard Helicopter today. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Irish Coast Guard Personnel pictured searching the shoreline at Belmullet for signs of the Missing Coast Guard Aircrew. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Heavy seas at Blacksod Bay which hampered search efforts for the missing crewmen of THe Coast Guard Helicopter today. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Irish Coast Guard Personnel pictured searching the shoreline at Belmullet for signs of the Missing Coast Guard Aircrew. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Irish Coast Guard Personnel pictured searching the shoreline at Belmullet for signs of the Missing Coast Guard Aircrew. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
The LE Roisin pictured on its search for missing Coast Guard Crew members at Blacksod Bay. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
An RNLI Lifeboat pictured on its search for missing Coast Guard Crew members at Blacksod Bay. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN

Niamh said the family have been overwhelmed by the support over the past two days.

"It will take us weeks and months to get through all the messages, all the cards and all the emails.

"We pray to god that the others are recovered and recovered soon. For Paul's family, for Mark's family, for Ciaran's family, we know what that wait is like. It was the most horrific time."

Ms Fitzpatrick said that her sister had recently taken the helicopter to a school in Rathfarnham in Dublin where she talked about her work to children.

"She loved talking to children. That’s what she was about."

The Irish Air Line Pilots' Association (IALPA), who represented Dara and her colleague MArk Duffy , who is among the missing, have expressed their condolences.

"The people of Ireland should be proud to have men and women like the crew of 'Rescue 116' watching over them," the IALPA said in a statement.

"As the search for answers begins and the Air Accident Investigation Unit start their investigation we ask people to avoid speculation about the accident and concentrate on the support of those involved."

Speaking at the scene today, Shane Ross has said no resources will be spared in the ongoing search.

"It's just unthinkable and unspeakable what's going on. I'm down here with Boxer Moran to express the solidarity of the Government with the families in this awful hour in their lives and to say to the communities here that we think what they're doing is absolutely wonderful," he said.

"That's a terrible element of what's going on. The idea that people whose purpose in life, whose motivation in life is to save lives and have lost their own life themselves- it makes it more poignant than ever.

"These people have saved so many people's lives in the past and have now lost their own- it makes it just a travesty of proportions which are unimaginable.

"I've spoken to the Taoiseach about it and we agreed immediately that every single resource available in the State would be available to the families and available to the people here and to find those who are missing, to establish what happened and to do anything to alleviate the distress caused. Nobody will have any reason for saying enough hasn't been done. Everything possible will be done.

He said it was too soon to comment on the investigation and had not met investigators.

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