Eithne Walls, 28, from Ballygowan, Co Down, and her friends Aisling Butler, from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Jane Deasy, from Dublin, also aged in their 20s, were returning from holiday in Brazil.
Ms Walls’s parents, Raymond and Mary, paid tribute to their daughter.
“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 Walls family.
“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.
“We feel privileged to have shared her too short life, and the countless memories of her will stay with us forever.”
In a statement issued yesterday, they added: “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.”
Ms Walls worked in Dublin’s Eye and Ear Hospital as a doctor.
A talented Irish dancer she had won medals nationally and internationally before joining Riverdance in 2000.
She performed on Broadway with the show for a year before she began her studies at Trinity.
She continued to perform and danced with Riverdance in China, Qatar, Germany and France, and also in Dublin at the Gaiety theatre.
Today her family appealed for privacy as they come to terms with their loss.
Her parents and siblings, Kathryn, Raymond and Gerard, said Ms Walls had great hopes for her future.
“She had many hopes for her life, and was looking forward to the exciting journey to fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming an eye surgeon,” they said.
“At university she made many life-long friends with whom she shared the trials and tribulations of university life and on this last holiday we know she was delighted to have been reunited with so many of them.
“Her friends will, we hope, remember their special time together with fondness and joy, despite its tragic end.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of her dearest friends Jane and Aisling who are suffering this same inconsolable loss.”
Riverdance producer Julian Erskine said Ms Walls first danced with Riverdance in 1998, two years after her older brother Raymond, also a doctor, began performing with the show.
She also danced at the Special Olympics opening ceremony in Dublin in 2003.
“Eithne was just one of those people... very bright, very engaging, always having a conversation,” said Mr Erskine.
“She was interested and she was interesting.”
Trinity College Dublin, where the three graduated from in 2007, also extended its condolences.