'A true hero': Captain Dara Fitzpatrick dies after Irish Coast Guard helicopter disappears during rescue mission

Fiona Simpson
Missing chopper: Dara Fitzpatrick was pulled from the Atlantic but died in hospital: PA

A female crew member dragged from the sea after an Irish Coast Guard helicopter went missing has died.

Captain Dara Fitzpatrick was pronounced dead in hospital after the aircraft which had been carrying four people lost contact during a rescue mission around 1am on Tuesday.

Cpt Fitzpatrick, 45, was pulled from the water off the west coast of Ireland around 7am, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said.

Friends and family took to social media to pay tribute.

George Lawlor wrote on Facebook: “A superb helicopter pilot with the Irish Coastguard who lost her life doing what she did best - serving others.”

Danni McLoughlin added: “What a woman. RIP.”

And, Padraig Nolan wrote: “A hero and a true lady. So sad to hear that Captain Dara Fitzpatrick has died following the loss of Rescue 116. A lovely woman to speak to, a true hero and accomplished SAR pilot.”

A frantic search for three other crew members continued on Tuesday afternoon.

Missing helicopter: The aircraft went missing off the coast of Ireland's Co Mayo (Irish Coast Guard)

The helicopter disappeared while providing cover for another chopper involved in a result operation involving a fishing vessel, officials said.

A Coast Guard spokesman said the missing helicopter had been providing cover in the evacuation of a crewman who needed urgent medical attention, from a UK-registered fishing vessel approximately 150 miles west of Eagle Island in Co Mayo.

"Owing to the distance involved, safety and communication support, known as Top Cover, was provided by the second Coast Guard helicopter, the Dublin based R116," he said.

"The search operation is being coordinated by the Coast Guard Rescue Coordination Centre in Malin Head.