Eithne's family pays tribute to 'extraordinary' daughter

The family of one of three young Irish women onboard the Air France airliner that vanished over the Atlantic Ocean spoke today of their heartbreak at the loss of their daughter.

The family of one of three young Irish women onboard the Air France airliner that vanished over the Atlantic Ocean spoke today of their heartbreak at the loss of their daughter.

Eithne Walls, 28, from Ballygowan, Co Down and her friends Aisling Butler, of Roscrea, Co Tipperary and Jane Deasy of Dublin, also aged in their 20s, were returning from holiday in Brazil.

The young women were forging careers as doctors and today Dr Walls’ parents Raymond and Mary paid tribute to their daughter, a talented Irish dancer who performed on Broadway with the world famous Riverdance troupe.

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

“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 this morning, 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.”

The three women had been holidaying in Brazil with other friends who graduated with them from Trinity College Dublin two years ago.

They were on the Air France Airbus A330 flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

The search for evidence of what happened to the stricken plane is continuing today, while the airline has also confirmed five Britons were onboard.

Dr Walls worked in Dublin’s Eye and Ear Hospital.

A talented Irish dancer she had won medals nationally and internationally before joining Riverdance in 2000.

She performed on Broadway with the hit show for a year before she began her medical studies at Trinity.

Despite the pressures of her academic work she continued to perform and danced with Riverdance in China, Qatar, Germany and France, as well as in Dublin when the dancers played the city’s 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 Dr 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.

“Many people have known Eithne through Irish dancing, a passion she had continued throughout her studies and into her professional life.

“We have been overwhelmed by the messages of support from so many family and friends in our community and throughout the world.”

Appealing for privacy, their statement added that they did not want to speak to the media.

“The family is in severe shock and they do not want anyone calling to the family home or at the home/work of Eithne’s relatives.

“They would like to thank the media for respecting their wishes and understand that Eithne is in people’s thoughts and prayers.”

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