Tributes have been paid to the senior Irish Coast Guard Captain who died during a rescue mission off the coast of Co. Mayo.
Dara Fitzpatrick, 45, was involved in a helicopter crash early this morning and was taken to hospital where she later passed away.
The aircraft lost contact at about 1am local time as it was coming in to refuel as part of the operation. A search continues for the three other crew members.
Irish President Michael D. Higgins said it was a “dark day” for the Irish Coast Guard while Search and Rescue Manager Gerard O’Flynn praised the “Trojan work” of the services.
“We are all grateful for the courage, resolution and exemplary commitment to the aims of the Coast Guard that Captain Fitzpatrick and her colleagues have consistently displayed,” President Higgins said.
“My thoughts are with her family at this difficult moment and also with the families of the missing crew.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, speaking in Washington, also extended his sympathy to the family of the deceased.
“On behalf of the Government I want to issue our deepest sympathy in respect of the family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick,” he said.
“I know this area well off the coast of Blacksod, and obviously the rescue agencies are now coordinating their search in the locality.”
He added that the Irish Coast Guard had been “exceptionally professional and competent in their work over many years,” noting that last year alone over two and a half thousand incidents were directed by the Coast Guard.
Ms Fitzpatrick was the most senior pilot with CHC, which runs the contract to provide search and rescue services in the Republic of Ireland.
Mr O’Flynn explained that she had been involved with the company for more than 20 years and that outside of work she was keen to promote water safety.
“For all of us involved in the coastguard and particularly, for her family and everybody, it does come as a complete shock, and we want to extend our sincere sympathy to all her family and indeed to her flying colleagues in CHC and simply to everybody who knew her,” he added.
Niamh Fitzpatrick paid tribute to her sister on Twitter and prayed for the safe return of the other missing members.
Minister for Transport Shane Ross said: “Today is one of the darkest days suffered by our brave, committed emergency services.”
He described Captain Fitzpatrick as a woman of “extraordinary courage and professionalism who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others – a young mother whose loss will be hugely felt.”