#Rescue116 - Tributes have poured in for Dara Fitzpatrick, the senior pilot who lost her life in yesterday’s Irish Coast Guard helicopter incident off Blacksod in Co Mayo.
“It never occurred to Dara that she shouldn’t do this [type of work] because she was female, it wasn’t easy for her crew or her to be the only female in a male environment, but she was excellent at [her job],” said Niamh, a broadcaster with Today FM, who joined her family in vigil in Castlebar overnight.
President Michael D Higgins echoed those sentiments, saying in a statement: “We are all grateful for the courage, resolution and exemplary commitment to the aims of the Cost Guard that Capt Fitzpatrick and her colleagues have consistently displayed.”
Dara Fitzpatrick was one of the Irish Coast Guard’s most experienced officers, and one of the first women to fly for the Irish Coast Guard’s precursor, the Irish Marine Emergency Services.
Longtime Afloat readers will also recall the feature in June 1994 that highlighted Dara as a then 22-year-old co-pilot on helicopter rescues, four years after she began flying.
More recently, in 2013, Afloat.ie covered Capt Fitzpatrick’s pioneering missions as part of Ireland’s first all-female SAR helicopter crew.
Meanwhile, The Irish Times reports that searches continue off Blacksod in North Mayo today (Wednesday 15 March) for Capt Fitzpatrick’s three missing crew mates from Rescue 116 — who have been named as chief pilot Mark Duffy, from Dundalk, and winch men Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, both from North Co Dublin.