Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim said last night that a 5km path of wreckage found in the Atlantic is confirmation that an Air France jet crashed in the ocean.
The families of Aisling Butler, 26, from Roscrea, Co Tipperary; Jane Deasy, 27, from Rathgar, Dublin; and Eithne Walls, 29, from Ballygowan, Co Down, have declined invitations to travel to a reception centre near Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, preferring to await news at home.
The three young doctors who graduated from the same class at Trinity College two years ago and were holidaying together in Brazil are among 228 people missing presumed dead after their Airbus A330 aircraft disappeared on a return journey from Rio de Janeiro to France on Monday.
It emerged yesterday that two other Irish-based families are caught up in the tragedy as two Estonian men who were working for Aer Lingus in Dublin were also on board returning from a holiday. Their names are being withheld until relatives in Estonia can be informed.
In tributes to the missing, the Butler family spoke of their heartbreak at losing Aisling, who was a senior house officer in the Emergency Department of Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.
“Aisling was very talented and a high achiever with a very promising career,” said her parents, John and Evelyn, and sister Lorna. “She was also full of fun, caring and kind, a devoted daughter and sister. At this stage the family are merely trying to come to terms with this shocking news.”
Eithne Walls’s parents, Raymond and Mary, also spoke of their agony. Their daughter was a professional Irish dancer who performed with the Riverdance troupe before dedicating herself full-time to medicine, working at the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital. “Eithne was an extraordinary person who brought light to the lives of everyone she touched,” the Walls family said.
Jane Deasy was the daughter of Beaumont Hospital surgeon, Joseph Deasy. Her family and close friends asked for privacy in their grief.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the Government was deeply concerned by the events and wanted to express their solidarity with the families.
“Our primary concern is for the families during this difficult time. The Government is offering support to the families as they wait for news of their loved ones,” he said.
Expressions of support were also offered by Tallaght Hospital, where all three doctors had served time as interns. A service was held in the hospital chapel yesterday and a book of condolences was opened.
Provost of Trinity College Dr John Hegarty also offered his condolences. “The loss of such young, vibrant and promising women at the outset of their careers in medicine and in such tragic circumstances has stunned the college from which they so recently graduated,” he said.
Gerry McCormack of trade union SIPTU, which represented the two Aer Lingus employees, also expressed sympathies.
“We are very saddened to hear of the deaths of our members. Our sympathies go out to members of their families, some of whom are also living and working in Ireland.”