Saturday 24 February 2018

'We'll miss you forever and love you always' -Sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick pays heartbreaking tribute

Orla Fitzpatrick and Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Orla Fitzpatrick and Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
Dara Fitzpatrick
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, 45, had had a starring role in a fly-on-the-wall documentary
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

The sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, pilot and commander of the helicopter that crashed off the Mayo coast, has paid an emotional tribute to her this morning.

Orla Fitzpatrick, one of Capt Fitzpatrick's three sisters, tweeted a beautiful picture of the pair, with the caption: "Me and my gorgeous sister Dara...we'll miss you forever and love you always #RIPDara".

Capt Fitzpatrick was one of four crew members on board Rescue 116 which crashed six miles west of Blacksod.

She is survived by her little son (3), her three sisters, her brother, and her parents.

Waterford native Wayne Jacob, who was rescued by Capt Fitzpatrick after getting into difficulty at the seaside resort of Tramore, said he will never forget her smile.

"Between the point of being rescued and being back at base at Waterford Airport, the two things that stuck in my head are the assurances I got from the winchman, and taking a look up at the cock pit. I was greeted with a smile and a thumbs up and the person asked 'are you okay' - that person was Capt Fitzpatrick," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

Waterford-based Coast Guard Jim Griffin also paid tribute to Dara Fitzpatrick, saying she will always be remembered for her "calming presence" and for excelling in a "male-dominated role".

Mr Griffin told Newstalk's Breakfast that Dara transferred to Waterford from Shannon around 2002.

Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick with former crew (not involved in crash) Pic: Miki Barlok
Capt. Dara Fitzpatrick with former crew (not involved in crash) Pic: Miki Barlok

"She worked at the helicopter base, which is in close proximity to our station in Dunmore East," he said.

"She had a very calming presence when you were communicating with her. She had a very calming presence in everything she did.

"She always had great cooperation from her colleagues." 

Her family also paid tribute in a statement to Today FM.

"We are so proud of Dara's work and all she has done to save the lives of others over the years," the statement read.

"We are completely heartbroken and we pray for the recovery of the other three crew."

Her sister, renowned psychologist Niamh Fitzpatrick, also paid tribute to her on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.

"My brave sister Capt Dara Fitzpatrick lost her life. We are devastated. Please pray for recovery of 3 remaining crew".

Capt Fitzpatrick was pronounced dead in hospital, Gerard O'Flynn, VS&T Operations Manager of the Irish Coast Guard confirmed.

She was one of very few female civilian rescue pilots worldwide.

She featured in the RTE series Rescue 117 leading dramatic rescues by the crew at Waterford helicopter base.

Captain Fitzpatrick had over 20 years flying experience and was chief pilot in Waterford since 2002.

She described her job as "challenging and exciting" during the filming of Rescue 117.

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