'She was kind to her core' - Irish Coast Guard captain laid to rest as rescue helicopter remains missing off west of Ireland coast

'She was kind to her core' - Irish Coast Guard captain laid to rest as rescue helicopter remains missing off west of Ireland coast

THE funeral has taken place in Dublin of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick of the search and rescue helicopter still missing off the west coast of Ireland. 

At a Funeral Mass on Saturday the body of Capt Fitzpatrick received a guard of honour from the Irish Coast Guard.

Fr Andrew O'Sullivan told the congregation in Glencullen, Co. Dublin how the death of the "kind to her core" pilot had "shocked and saddened" everyone who knew her.

"The news of Dara’s death was a message that shocked and saddened all who knew Dara and her family," he said.

"We could scarcely believe it then – we can scarcely believe it now.

"We have lost a talented young woman, who along with her colleagues lived good and generous lives and did so much in helping others in their time of need."

The coffin of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick leaving the church as hundreds of mourners gathered at St Patrick's Church in Glencullen, Co Dublin. (Picture: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie)

The congregation also heard how Capt Fitzpatrick loved travelling, was an "adventurer" and loved her young son, Fionn, aged three.

"Dara loved travelling and had so many adventures. She was not only a professional and talented pilot and excelled in what she did, but also, a great horsewoman, she loved donkeys; a hillwalker and an adventurer.

"She was kind to her core and a champion of the underdog. She was fiercely loyal and her family was of paramount importance to her…Her family describe her sense of humour as “goofy” and she had a great ability to find the fun in life.

"I know today, that Dara’s family take great consolation in the fact that she lived life to the full.

"The day Dara formally adopted Fionn was one of the happiest days of her life and that of her family.

"Fionn, now embodies Dara’s characteristics of family [...] Dara adored Fionn."

Irish President Michale D Higgins was among the mourners (Picture: Rolling News)

Fr O'Sullivan also said her funeral was "profoundly sad" and offered prayers for the families of the three other members of the search and rescue helicopter, Captain Mark Duffy and winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, who are still missing.

“This church, over the years of its history, has seen many sad and tragic funerals, but few can have been as profoundly sad and sorrowful as the funeral that gathers us here today.

"A tragic death like this teaches us suddenly and painfully something deeply true. Life, too, is so important.

"There would be no such sense of loss and grief unless we suddenly saw that life is very precious. When a life is torn away from us, then, we see that our friends, people, life are all that matter.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the crew – the Duffy, Smith and Ormsby Families at this heart-wrenching time – and with all their colleagues in the coastguard."

President Michael D Higgins, who was also in attendance at Capt Fitzpatrick's funeral, paid tribute to the pilot and crew of the missing helicopter, last week.

The lighthouse at Black Rock, where the debris was found. (Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie)

"On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I pay tribute to Captain Dara Fitzpatrick who died," he said.

"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.

"My thoughts are with her family at this difficult moment and also with the families of the missing crew.

"It is appropriate that we acknowledge and pay tribute to the efforts of her colleagues at the Coast Guard who have been working at a time, which must be for them, a time of great grief and uncertainty."

Capt Fitzpatrick was a crew member of missing helicopter, which had been providing assistance to a Sligo-based rescue helicopter to complete the evacuation of a crewman from a British fishing vessel in the early hours of March 14.

Captain Mark Duffy as well as winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, above left, are still missing from SAR helicopter 116, pictured right is Captain Dara Fitzpatrick (Picture: Rollingnews/EMEA CHC)

Contact with the Dublin helicopter was lost around 1am and a major search operation commenced involving helicopters from Sligo and Shannon, a maritime patrol aircraft, as well as Ballyglass and Achill all-weather lifeboats and the LÉ Roisín.

The wreckage of the missing aircraft is believed to be located near Black Rock, a rocky island with a lighthouse 10 miles off the coast of Black Sod bay in Co. Mayo where the helicopter had last refuelled.

A faint signal from the Black Box flight recorder was detected in the waters around 50m from Black Rock light house and the investigation unit handling the search said attempts were made to pinpoint the signal but six metre ocean swells forced the search operation back.

Investigators believe the back box will be close to the wreckage and the three remaining crew, Captain Mark Duffy as well as winchmen Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith, will be found in the same area.

The six investigators, two from Britain and four from the Air Accident Investigation Unit had to approach Black Rock lighthouse by Air Corps helicopter as the waters were too dangerous.

Last week, Jurgen Whyte, an inspector with the Air Accident Investigation Unit told RTÉ Prime Time that the investigation unit had taken aerial photographs of the lighthouse and identified ‘areas of interest.’

Search teams have recovered debris of helicopter SAR 116 which has been missing off Mayo since Tuesday, March 14. (Picture: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

“When we got to the top of Black Rock, which is a treacherous area, we did find elements and parts of wreckage that we can identify as coming from Rescue 116.

“We have found no impact marks of significance on the island itself and no direct marks on the lighthouse itself.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport has confirmed that the search for the crew and the black box belonging to the SAR116 aircraft is ongoing.

Capt Fitzpatrick was recovered from the sea on March 14, and flown to Mayo University Hospital where she was formally pronounced dead.

At the time of her death, she was 45, and had served with the Irish Coast Guard for 20 years.