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Tuesday 26 March 2019

'Tell your loved ones you love them' - urges Captain Dara Fitzpatrick's sister

Niamh Fitzpatrick
Niamh Fitzpatrick
Captain Dara Fitzpatrick. Photo: Collins
Fiona Dillon

Fiona Dillon

The sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick has spoken about her loss as the first anniversary of the tragic R116 rescue helicopter crash approaches.

"It's nearly a year since my sister died. Almost 52 weeks since I last saw her. I never went that long in my whole life without seeing her," said Niamh Fitzpatrick yesterday in a posting on Twitter.

"Now I'll live the rest of my life without ever seeing her again.

"Make sure that your loved ones know that you love them. It does help," she said.

The post received a huge reaction online, with many people sending their best wishes and support to the Fitzpatrick family, along with all the families bereaved in the tragedy.

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, some 13km west of the Mullet peninsula, in the early hours of March 14 last year.

The bodies of both Mr Ormsby and Mr Smith have not been recovered, despite extensive air, sea and shore searches.

A preliminary inquest into the deaths had been due to open last week in Mayo, but was deferred until a later date - which has yet to be confirmed - due to the severe weather conditions.

It is understood the coroner is hoping to be in a position to issue certificates of death, which will allow the deaths to be formally registered.

However, it is believed that after some matters are dealt with, an application will be made for an adjournment of the inquest, because there are ongoing investigations by gardaí and the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU).

In a statement released in January, the AAIU said its investigation into the accident was "still in the process of gathering factual and background information and is making steady progress".

"International convention, and associated national and European legislation, require that, if a final report cannot be made publicly available within 12 months of the date of the accident, an interim statement detailing the progress of the investigation and any safety issues raised, will be made publicly available," it said.

The AAIU said that due to the breadth of this investigation, it would not be possible to issue a final report within 12 months of the date of the accident.

Capt Fitzpatrick, from Dublin, was the central figure in the 2010 documentary film 'Rescue 117', which detailed the work of her Coast Guard Search and Rescue team based in Waterford.

She also visited schools, telling pupils about her work.

Irish Independent

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