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Three Irish dead in Air France disaster

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The three Irish people who are feared dead in the Air France disaster have been named.

The three Irish women, all doctors in their mid-20s, have been named as Aisling Butler, of Roscrea, County Tipperary, Jane Deasy of Dublin and Eithne Walls, from Belfast.

The trio, who graduated from medical school at Trinity College Dublin two years ago, were on their way home after a vacation in Brazil.

Another Irish person's name was on the flight list, but sources said he did not actually board the aircraft.

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus has confirmed that two of its employees were aboard the Air France flight. The nationality of the passengers has not been confirmed, but they are believed to have been based in Dublin.

The PA reported last night that Dr. Butler’s father, John believed his daughter,who only celebrated her 26th birthday two weeks ago was dead. “We know Aisling is gone, we are sure of that,” he said. “It is just about trying to live now, I have to live for my wife and my only other daughter...”

Dr. Butler was doing an internship in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin, and was supposed to move to St James’ Hospital in Dublin next month.

“She was a truly wonderful, exciting girl. I just can’t describe how we feel,” he said.

Dr. Walls was a dancer with Riverdance and performed with the troupe on Broadway before beginning her studies at TCD. She continued to dance with Riverdance’s “flying squad” and had performed in China, Qatar, Germany, France and Ireland.

Dr. Walls' family released a statement Tuesday describing their loss and the immense happiness that Eithne had brought to their lives.

“It is with the heaviest and saddest of hearts that the Walls family confirm the loss of their dearest daughter and sister, Eithne,” said the family in the statement.

“Eithne was an extraordinary person who brought light to the lives of everyone she touched. She was beautiful in every way, especially of spirit. She had a passion for life that permeated, enlivened and enriched those around her," they added in the statement.

“We feel privileged to have shared her too short life, and the countless memories of her will stay with us forever. Eithne, we will miss your easy smile. We will miss your loving embrace. We will miss your happy hello. We will miss your dancing feet.
 
“We will miss your silliness, your wit and your hugs. We will always hold you in our hearts and you are never truly gone.”

 

Ireland's President McAleese said her “thoughts and prayers” were “with the Irish families and the families of everyone on board at this very difficult time”.

The Irish women had traveled as a group with a fourth woman, a British national from Wales.

The flight, Air France 447, is feared to have crashed in the ocean with 228 people aboard after losing power in a massive thunderstorm high above the ocean. 

A Brazilian air force aircraft spotted debris from a plane in the Atlantic, 650km northeast of Fernando do Noronha island, but it has not been officially confirmed that the wreckage is from the Air France flight.

Air France said the plane was probably brought down by a lightning strike after hitting a fierce storm.  It is the worst disaster in Air France's history.

The flight left Rio de Janiero at 5pm EST yesterday and was due to arrive into Paris at 4.15am EST.

Air traffic controllers say their last contact with the aircraft took place four hours into the flight when the pilot said  he had hit severe turbulence.

Just 15 minutes later, the onboard computer sent automatic error messages reporting multiple electrical faults and a loss of cabin pressure.

Air experts say that this combination means that the Airbus A330-200 - a plane with an excellent safety record - might have broken apart in the storm.

"The most likely thing is that the plane was hit by lightning. The plane was in a stormy area with strong turbulence, which provoked problems," said François Brouse, Air France’s director of communications.

Today, the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the Government was "deeply concerned" and said this thoughts were with the relatives of those on board.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin said he wanted to convey his "concern to all families awaiting news of loved ones."

"Officials from my Department have regrettably confirmed that three Irish citizens are on the passenger manifest for the flight from Rio to Paris. We have contacted the families of those involved and are offering full consular assistance."

In France, relatives have gathered at  Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris where President Nicolas Sarkozy said the prospects of finding any survivors are "very small."

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