Sunday 19 November 2017

'Dara was so warm and generous and she loved the fun side of life' - friend of Rescue 116 helicopter hero

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A devastated friend of hero Captain Dara Fitzpatrick has revealed the heartbreaking moment she learned of her death.

Elaine Weissman first met Dara 19 years ago when they ended up moving in together.

“This beautiful red-head arrived. She arrived with a bag in one hand and a bottle of red wine in the other – and we were best friends ever since," she said.

Captain Fitzpatrick was one of four crew members on-board Rescue 116 when it went down off the coast of Co Mayo.

Mourned: (from the top left, clockwise) Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy, and winchmen Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby
Mourned: (from the top left, clockwise) Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy, and winchmen Ciaran Smith and Paul Ormsby

Her friend was “very generous, very warm, kind and caring" she told Limerick radio station, Live 95fm with Joe Nash. 

"There was also a real, real fun side to her. She loved the fun side of life," she said.

The pair remained firm friends and travelled Asia together, where Dara's red hair always caused a stir, Elaine said.

Dara was godmother of Elaine’s five-year-old daughter.

"She was always so willing to share [her time]," she said of her friend.

Dara  would also speak to young women about their careers telling them "there is no glass ceiling if you don’t let it stop you – and it most certainly didn’t stop her.”

Ciaran Smith, who is still missing, was one of Dara's best friends Elaine said. He is still missing along with Paul Ormsby, another Rescue 116 crew member.

Elaine praised the rescue operations in Blacksod and acknowledged the ongoing challenge faced by their families as the search for the final two crewmen continues.

"Their families are heartbroken," she said.

"We got to say goodbye. We got to bury her in a very, very dignified ceremony," she said.

An audibly emotional Elaine spoke of how she first learned of the news after trying to contact her friend when she first heard the news.

"I was driving to work at 6.30am on the Tuesday morning and I heard the news," she said.

“I thought, ‘Ah God, that’s hardly Dara,’ but I rang her anyway and I said, ‘She’ll kill me for waking her up.’

“But unfortunately I never got a response. I sent a few texts then at 7.10am I got a phone call from a mutual friend to tell me that it was "Dara’s helicopter that had gone down and that she was missing. Words I’ll never forget...absolutely horrendous."

Elaine is working to collect supplies, along with Limerick GAA, which are being delivered to the co-ordination centre in Blacksod on Wednesday morning.

She is also planning a fundraiser in Dara's memory for the RNLI.

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