Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 10:53 UK

Riverdance star on lost airliner

Eithne Walls was a doctor and a talented dancer
Eithne Walls was a doctor and a talented dancer

A young doctor and talented Irish dancer from County Down was among 228 people onboard the Air France airliner which disappeared on Monday.

Eithne Walls, 28, from Ballygowan, worked in the Dublin Eye and Ear Hospital.

But she had also spent a year with Riverdance on Broadway, New York, before studying medicine at Trinity College, Dublin.

Her family described her as "an extraordinary person."

In a statement her parents Mary and Ray, her sister Kathryn and her brothers Gerard and Raymond said: "Eithne brought light into 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. "

She was travelling home from holiday with two other friends, both doctors.

Aisling Butler, from Roscrea, County Tipperary, and Jane Deasy from Dublin are also missing on the flight from Rio to Paris.

The friends had graduated together from Trinity College, Dublin, two years ago.

Aine Rooney, a dancing school teacher who began dancing with Eithne as a child at the Armstrong School in west Belfast said:

"She was a beautiful person. She had the most caring, kind personality. She was so loveable and a joy to be around. She was a people's person.

"She was also a world standard dancer. At the Riverdance Flying Squad gigs, the books were always with her, she would investigate us and we always tortured her with our aches and pains."

Aine Rooney: Eithne was a 'people's person'

Eithne was a past pupil of Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch.

Bernie Devlin, vice-principal, said staff and pupils were shocked and saddened by the loss of a "talented and delightful" girl.

"She was a student with great energy and motivation. She excelled in all aspects of school life. She was a top class musician and dancer who used these disciplines to enrich a very busy life," she said.

Aisling Butler's father, John, said he could not describe his family's grief.

"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, Lorna."

Mr Butler said his daughter, who celebrated her 26th birthday just over two weeks ago, lived for her job as a young doctor but also enjoyed life to the full.

Irish President Mary McAleese said she was thinking about the families of the missing passengers.

"My thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts of everyone, this evening are with the Irish families and the families of everyone on board at this very difficult time," she said.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said his government was deeply concerned and wanted to express its solidarity with families who are anxiously waiting for news of loved ones.

Riverdance
The Riverdance troupe performed at the Gaiety Theatre in 2007

"Our primary concern is for the families during this difficult time," he said.

"The government is offering support to the families as they wait news of their loved ones."

The plane vanished over the Atlantic after flying into turbulence en route from Brazil to Paris.

The Airbus sent an automatic message at 0214 GMT on Monday, four hours after leaving Rio de Janeiro, reporting a short circuit. It is believed it may have suffered lightning damage.

It had 216 passengers and 12 crew on board, including three pilots. The passengers included one infant, seven children, 82 women and 126 men.

Five of the missing passengers are from Britain.

The plane was well over the ocean when it was lost, making the search by Brazilian and French planes more difficult.

Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris has set up a crisis centre.

On Monday night, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said there was a "very small" chance of finding survivors.



SEE ALSO
Walls family statement
02 Jun 09 |  Northern Ireland
Timeline of Flight AF 447
10 Jun 09 |  Americas
In pictures: Air France plane vanishes
01 Jun 09 |  In Pictures
Air disasters timeline
24 May 10 |  Special Reports

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