A sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died yesterday when an Irish Coast Guard helicopter crashed off Mayo, has said that while her family are heartbroken, they had "no regrets where Dara is concerned" because she had lived her life to the full.
Niamh Fitzpatrick said her family had stayed at the mortuary in Castlebar, Co Mayo, overnight because they did not want to leave her alone adding her sister was "all about family".
She said Capt Fitzpatrick wanted to be a mother, so she adopted her son Fionn and she adored him and the family would rear him on her behalf.
The family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick say family and her work family were everything to her pic.twitter.com/VJHppoM2ef— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 15, 2017
Ms Fitzpatrick said her sister loved her job, worked hard at it and was excellent at it.
She said it was not easy for Capt Fitzpatrick to be the only female in a male environment, but in terms of doing the job, there was never any question of her gender having anything to do with her capability.
Capt Dara Fitzpatrick's sister, Niamh: 'It never occurred to Dara that she couldn’t do this because she was female ... she just loved it.' pic.twitter.com/aBsDhfSxUQ— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 15, 2017
Ms Fitzpatrick added that Capt Fitzpatrick had "gentle hands" as a result of riding horses growing up and instructors had commented on the fact that she did not "attack the controls" like other people did.
Capt Fitzpatrick, she said, had wanted to join Aer Lingus but she did not get in and the Air Corps was taking on pilots at the time so she took a helicopter lesson and loved it.
She became the first female commercial pilot in the country and went on to be the first female captain in the country.
Ms Fitzpatrick said that they had talked to her sister about the risks of her job but she had said they were trained to take risks in order to save people so they were risks they had to take.
Cpt Dara Fitzpatrick's sister, Niamh: 'The Search&Rescue community has been amazing... We stayed with Dara all night and they stayed with us' pic.twitter.com/C2ThDF6wki— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 15, 2017
She said the sense of community in the Irish Coast Guard was amazing, that Capt Fitzpatrick’s colleagues had arrived at 6am yesterday to tell them about the crash and they had not left their side since, giving them incredible support.
She said they were her friends as well as her colleagues.
Ms Fitzpatrick said her family was praying Capt Fitzpatrick’s colleagues would be recovered soon as searches continue this morning.
She added that her family have been helped enormously by the messages of support they have received.
Earlier a colleague of the Rescue 116 crew paid tribute to the professionalism and passion of Capt Fitzpatrick.
Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Mark McGibney of the Dún Laoghaire RNLI Lifeboat Station said he trained with her and other coast guards regularly, especially in recent years where upskilling was required with the arrival of the S92 helicopter.
Mr McGibney said Capt Fitzpatrick was passionate about her job. He said "she was so proud of her team and her helicopter".
Mr McGibney said he and his colleagues work with the Coast Guard and they both "have the same end-goal here, which is saving lives at sea".
He said they "just back each other up and work together as a team and what's happened has just been a real kick".