1 dead in search for Irish Coast Guard helicopter and crew

One of the Irish Coast Guard SAR helicopters. Picture: PA/Contributed
One of the Irish Coast Guard SAR helicopters. Picture: PA/Contributed
Share this article

A woman crew member from the Irish Coast Guard helicopter missing off the west of Ireland, who was pulled from the Atlantic but died, has been named as Captain Dara Fitzpatrick.

She was 45 and had been with the search and rescue service for more than 20 years.

Mark Abbey, regional director for CHC, the company which operates the helicopters for the Coast Guard, said: “It is with deepest regret that we can confirm that Captain Dara Fitzpatrick passed away following today’s accident off the coast of County Mayo in the early hours of this morning.

“We are devastated by this morning’s tragic accident. Our thoughts are with Dara’s family and friends, as well as those of the three crew who are still missing.

“The extensive search and rescue mission is ongoing.”

Hopes are fading for the survival of the other three crew members, who have yet to be found, acting head of Coast Guard Eugene Clonan said.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who was recovered in a 'critical condition' this morning, has died. Picture: Contributed

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who was recovered in a 'critical condition' this morning, has died. Picture: Contributed

An intense search is continuing around six miles (10km) west of Blacksod, Co Mayo, where the Dublin-based Sikorsky S92 disappeared after providing cover for another helicopter involved in an early-morning rescue operation.

The aircraft lost contact at around 12.45am on Tuesday just before it was about to land to refuel, giving no indication of anything wrong.

Capt Fitzpatrick was one of two female Coast Guard pilots who made Irish aviation history three years ago by flying the first all-woman mission for the service.

The pair flew a cardiac patient from west Co Cork to Cork University Hospital before transferring a critically-ill five-year-old child from the hospital to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

Enda Kenny has said his thoughts are with the families of the brave crew of the Coast Guard helicopter which vanished off the Irish coast.

Speaking from the US, where he is to meet President Donald Trump at the White House, the Taoiseach was being kept up to date with developments off Blacksod, which is in his Mayo constituency.

“The Taoiseach is being briefed regularly here in the US on the Coast Guard helicopter accident that has taken place off the coast of Mayo,” his spokesman said.

“His thoughts are with the families of the brave crew and with the emergency crews currently working in the area.”

Transport Minister Shane Ross said he was deeply concerned about the incident and offered his support and sympathies for all those involved, “particularly those family members who are awaiting news of their loved ones”.

“This is an extremely difficult time for all concerned,” he added.

Sinn Fein fisheries spokesman Martin Ferris paid tribute to the “selfless service” of the Coast Guard in saving countless lives.

“The rescue helicopters are a welcome sight, not just on the deck of a boat in trouble, but also to those injured and stranded on Ireland’s mountains,” he said.

“This has been a painful year for the Coast Guard, having lost their comrade Caitriona Lucas last September.”