Friday 18 October 2019

'I can still see us chatting and laughing' - sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick shares touching tribute on second anniversary of her death

Dara Fitzpatrick died when her helicopter crashed in 2017. Photo: Collins
Dara Fitzpatrick died when her helicopter crashed in 2017. Photo: Collins
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

CAPTAIN Dara Fitzpatrick's sister has urged people to spend time with their loved ones as the second anniversary of the R116 rescue helicopter crash nears.

Capt Fitzpatrick, along with Capt Mark Duffy, winch operator Paul Ormsby and winchman Ciarán Smith, died when their Sikorsky S-92 helicopter crashed at Blackrock Island off the Mayo coast on March 14 2017.

Taking to Twitter, Capt Fitzpatrick's sister, psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick, said she had "no idea" their last conversation would be their final moment together.

"Two years ago today, I last saw my sister alive. I can still see us chatting and laughing, no idea it was our final moments together. Dara died 32 hours later.

Psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick
Psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick

"The rest is noise. Love is what matters.

"Spend time with those you love. One day it will mean everything that you did."

Hundreds of social media users, including campaigner Vicky Phelan, have paid tribute to Capt Fitzpatrick and shared their condolences with Niamh and her family.

"There are so many of us who never met Dara but feel we know her. The powerful love you shared is so evident and her memory will never die," one said.

A lengthy investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) has been ongoing for the past two years following the tragic collision.

Investigators said last week that a draft report into the probe "is at an advanced stage".

They also said they will not be releasing a detailed interim statement on the anniversary as this would detract from their ongoing work.

“Rather than preparing another detailed Interim Statement, which would detract from the ongoing work of preparing the Draft Report, the Investigation is focusing its efforts on finalising the Draft Report,” the AAIU said.

“Once finalised, the Draft Report will be circulated, in confidence, to interested parties as soon as possible. Accordingly, a detailed Interim Statement is not being issued on the occasion of the second anniversary of this accident.”

Last September, Transport Minister Shane Ross called for the “speedy implementation” of recommendations to address discrepancies in the oversight of Search and Rescue operations in Ireland.

Speaking previously with Independent.ie, Niamh said the news of her sister Dara's death hit her "like a sledgehammer".

"That moment, with the man in uniform and the man in the suit standing in the kitchen of Dara's home… her family and friends huddled close together… as if bracing for what we knew was coming… hearing the words said out loud telling us that Dara had died… knowing that this was not a nightmare, that it was real, that we would never again see our lovely Dara walk into this kitchen with a smile or a hug for whoever was there… that was my first introduction to grief.

"It was as though the world had stopped. Literally stopped. For me, that moment was the end of life as we knew it and the significance of that hit hard and without mercy, bringing a sadness with it that was and still is savage in its intensity."

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