PARIS - Three young Irish doctors, all close friends, enjoying a two-week vacation together in Brazil.
That's how their families want to remember Aisling Butler, 26; Jane Deasy, 27; and Eithne Walls, 29 - three of the 228 passengers who met with tragedy as Air France Flight 447 ended up in the Atlantic Ocean.
The women boarded the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on Sunday night after a reunion with a larger group of former students who graduated in 2007 from Trinity College medical school.
Aisling's father, John, paid tribute to his daughter yesterday from Roscrea, County Tipperary. "She was a truly wonderful, exciting girl," he said. "She never flunked an exam in her life - nailed every one of them - and took it all in her stride as well."
He initially thought Aisling was booked on Monday's flight and had to retrieve her itinerary from his deleted e-mail to check. "When I opened it up, a nightmare opened up as well," he said.
Walls, meanwhile, danced around the world with the Riverdance troupe, both before and during her medical studies. She joined Riverdance in 2000 and performed at Radio City Music Hall until starting Trinity College in 2001. She then danced part-time with the troupe's "flying squad" from Dublin to Shanghai until 2007, and was training at Dublin's Eye and Ear Hospital to be an eye surgeon.
"Eithne, we will miss your easy smile," her family said in a statement. "We will miss your dancing feet. Her friends will, we hope, remember their special time together with fondness and joy, despite its tragic end."
Among the 216 passengers were 61 French citizens, 58 Brazilians, 26 Germans, nine Chinese, and nine Italians. A lesser number of citizens from 27 other countries also were on the passenger list, including two Americans.
The Americans, geologist Michael Harris and his wife, Anne, moved to Rio from Houston 10 months ago, and were on their way to Europe for work and vacation, said a spokesman for his employer, Devon Energy Corp. Michael Harris, who turned 60 in May, had planned to attend seminars in Barcelona, Spain, then enjoy "five days on R&R in Paris," said spokesman Chip Minty.
"They were both gregarious, caring, patient, kind, fun-loving individuals," Anne Harris' sister, Mary Miley, told the Lafayette, La., newspaper the Advertiser. "My only comfort is that they died together."
The five Britons included engineer Arthur Coakley, 61, of England. His wife of 34 years, Patricia, broke down in tears as she described her "fabulous husband," father to their three grown children. "He worked so hard for his family, that's all he wanted, to retire," she told reporters.
Coakley, a structural engineer for PDMS, an Aberdeen-based oil company, was helping with a survey in Brazil. He was booked onto an earlier flight but was bumped onto the doomed jet after the first flight was full.
The French tiremaker Michelin lost three executives - two senior Brazilian managers and Christine Pieraerts, 28, a French engineer.
Michelin's president for South America, Luiz Roberto Anastacio, 50, had been promoted May 4 and was traveling to France to meet fellow top executives.
Ten salesmen from CGED, an electrical distributor, were on the plane with their spouses after winning a vacation to Brazil, Europe-1 radio said.
Stephane Artiguenave, 35, and his wife, Sandrine, 34, were one of the couples on that trip. The couple, from the village of Saint-Martin-de-Sescas near Bordeaux, are survived by a 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.
Christophe Champeaud, Artiguenave's brother-in-law, said the family had received no support from company officials or Air France.
"We've made lots of calls to the hotline put in place by Air France to get some advice," he said, "but we haven't gotten any help - not even to figure out how to tell the children about their parents' deaths."