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Wednesday 21 March 2018

Exclusive: 'It's horrific watching their families suffer waiting' - Dara Fitzpatrick's sister

The crew of Rescue 116: (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith
The crew of Rescue 116: (left to right) Paul Ormsby, Mark Duffy, Dara Fitzpatrick and Ciaran Smith
A Coast Guard helicopter takes off at Blacksod Pier. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Rescue 116 crew member Mark Duffy was recovered on Sunday
Keeping a vigil: A member of the Irish Coast Guard looks out towards a misty Achill as the search continues for Rescue 116 along the Blacksod coastline in Co Mayo Photo: Steve Humphreys
Flowers left for the victims of the R116 helicopter crash at Blacksod, Co Mayo Picture: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
The body of Captain Mark Duffy is borne gently ashore at Blacksod, Co Mayo, by some of his colleagues from the Coast Guard service for formal identification. Photo: Chris Radburn, PA
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

The sister of Rescue 116 Captain Dara Fitzpatrick said it's "horrific" watching the families of the two missing crewmen wait to be reunited with their loved ones.

Niamh Fitzpatrick said that her family are "taking one day at a time" as they deal with the aftermath of the tragic Rescue 116 helicopter that collided with Blackrock Island off the Co Mayo coast in the early hours of March 14.

"It depends on the day and the hour. We're feeling a mix of numbness and being inconsolable. Then there's this pause while we pray and hope for the families of Ciaran and Paul that they will be recovered.

"We have Dara but they don't have their loved ones.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick Picture: Collins
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick Picture: Collins

"It's horrific watching their families suffer waiting for Ciaran and Paul to come back to them," Niamh told

The psychologist said that Dara's ashes have been buried by her family, as they try to "put one foot in front of the other" every day.

"Dara was funny, kind and very loving. Family was everything to her."

On Mother's day, Dara's son Fionn (3) paid a tribute to her by letting go of a balloon for his "mama to catch".

"It was something he needed to do. It was beautiful but horrific.

"It was just a balloon but it means so much more. I know now what the word heart-wrenching really means."

Niamh said that the public have been "amazing" and that the family love hearing stories about how Dara helped other people.

"We never knew that people could be so caring and warm.

"People have sent messages, brought us food and have been an incredible support.

"The stories shared by people who Dara rescued have been amazing and heartwarming. They show how brilliant and caring she was and they marry the Dara we knew as a sister, mother and daughter to the woman that people knew as a Coast Guard.

"She would speak to casualties so reassuringly and she would genuinely tell them that they would be ok."

Niamh said that her family will respond to every message of support that they received as she says she can't thank the public enough.

"We're asking people to donate to the RNLI because they brought Dara out of the water and had her in their boat before Rescue 115 arrived.

"If people want to donate that would be great."

Niamh is also asking people to keep winch operator Ciaran Smith (38) and winch man Paul Ormsby (53) in their prayers.

They have still not been found after their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter collided with Blackrock Island off the Co Mayo coast in the early hours of March 14.

Their colleague Captain Mark Duffy (51) was brought to shore on Sunday afternoon after Naval Service divers recovered his body from the cockpit of the helicopter wreckage. His funeral is due to take place tomorrow.

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