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Brave helicopter pilot Dara Fitzpatrick is laid to rest in Dublin

By Cian Molloy - 19 March, 2017

“These extraordinary people put their own lives at risk in order to save others – what bravery! They truly are heroes” – Fr Andrew O’Sullivan.

The late Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

Few funerals can be as profoundly sad and sorrowful as that of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, said Fr Andrew O’Sullivan at her funeral in Glencullen, Co. Dublin, yesterday (Saturday 18 March 2017).

Captain Fitzpatrick was commander of a Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 116, which crashed into the sea on Monday night, with the loss of all four crew members. Five days later, on Saturday night as this story was going to press, the bodies of the three other R116 crewmen – Captain Mark Duffy, winchman Ciaran Smith and winch operator Paul Ormsby – had still not been found, though hopes were high that their bodies might yet be recovered following the discovery of a portion of their wrecked aircraft near Blackrock Lighthouse off the coast of Mayo.

“Dara’s tragic death has stunned all of us gathered here this morning,” said Fr O’Sullivan, parish priest of Sandyford, Glencullen and Kilternan. “In particular, it has created a deep void in the lives of her loving family who are truly heartbroken. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of terrible loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else – our faith. Our faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life and death and what happens after death. Only in the light of faith can be begin to understand what has happened to Dara and how we are to keep going from here.

“Belief in the resurrection does not relieve us of our grief, nor does it remove our tears, but rather it allows them to glisten faintly in the light of Christ; our hope; our saviour.

“We are all here this morning to remember Dara and also to offer our support to the Fitzpatrick family. Through our presence here in such great numbers we are stating publicly that we too recognise the blessing that Dara was. We are expressing gratitude to the Fitzpatrick family for moulding Dara into that wonderful young woman and mother that she was.

“Over the last few days many stories have been told about Dara and how she was a wonderful colleague and friend and indeed of the incredible professionalism and bravery of those in the coastguard and in our emergency services. How these extraordinary people put their own lives at risk in order to save others – what bravery! And they truly are heroes.” 

Capt Fitzpatrick contributed to a DVD about alcohol awareness, Find the Balance – Dare to Dream, which was produced by the Irish Bishops’ Conference. In the DVD she talks about the pressures of her job and how often, after a critical mission, the crew would go drinking together to de-stress afterwards. Nevertheless, she says it is crucial not to over indulge to ensure you are able to perform to the best of your ability the morning after. An extract from the DVD can be viewed on the homepage of CatholicIreland.net.

Dara Fitzpatrick had more than 15 years of experience in search and rescue missions. She leaves behind a young son Fionn, her parents John and Mary Fitzpatrick, her sisters Niamh, Orla and Emer, her brother Johnny, and extended family, friends and colleagues. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis.

To view an extract from the video, Find the Balance – Dare to Dream, scroll down on the homepage of this website.

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