THE tricolour is flying at half mast over the Irish Coastguard Station in Dunmore East and a light switched on early this morning will remain illuminated until the bodies of all four crew members of Rescue 116, which disappeared off the radar while on a mission off the Mayo coast, have been recovered.
“Sickened” was how Jim Griffin, Officer in Charge with the Dunmore East Coastguard, described how he and his colleagues felt on hearing the tragic news that the first body to be recovered was that of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick who had served in Waterford for a number of years.
“She was a beautiful girl with no airs or graces. She was accommodating to everyone and as base captain at the Waterford base it was Dara who ensured the safe arrival, by helicopter of Santa, at the Christmas party for children with special needs in Faithlegg.
“Along with Francie Conroy at Hasbro we had been trying to make sure that Santa would arrive in style and it was Dara who got the helicopter part of the journey over the line,” said Jim Griffin.
The Dublin native was involved in a number of high profile rescue missions from the Waterford base and she also featured in the RTE series Rescue 117 leading dramatic rescues at ther Waterford helicopter base.
Captain Fitzpatrick who came to Waterford in 2002 was one of the very few female civilian pilots worldwide. She had 20 years flying experience and was with the Irish Coast Guard for close on 20 years.
In her job and outside of it she loved a challenge and among her many achievements was completing the seven peaks challenge with her close friend and fellow member of Rescue 117, Neville Murphy.