Rescue services are bravest of the brave
The death of the Irish helicopter pilot Dara Fitzpatrick and the fate of her colleagues is a grim reminder of the dangers facing the members of the Coastguard service as they go to the help of others.
At the time of writing the search continues for those who are missing, and people must not lose hope.
Overall, however, it has been a tragic day in the history of the Irish Coastguard, and this is being felt deeply by people from all backgrounds across this island.
Ms Fitzpatrick was a senior and vastly-experienced pilot, and it will take a detailed inquiry to find out what happened as the aircraft moved in darkness to refuel on home soil after going to the aid of others far out to sea.
What a sad irony it is that those who went to help others ran into the most serious difficulties themselves.
People who knew Dara Fitzpatrick are paying tribute to her selflessness in her long and dangerous career of helping others.
Those who work in the Coastguard service require special qualities of skill and courage in carrying out their role, so often in adverse circumstances.
We have all read about, or have seen, some of these rescues taking place. It is important to pay tribute to the Irish Coastguard and the RNLI, who work together closely to help maintain the safety, and to save the lives, of those in danger along our shores and elsewhere.
These are the people who come behind the searchlights as their helicopters or lifeboats move in to help those in peril.
One only has to listen, safely in the comfort of one's home, to the shipping forecast on a bad night to get even a glimpse of the dangers of a vast expanse of a troubled ocean out there, as well as the vulnerability of human beings at the mercy of the elements.
Many different types of operations take place, with rescue workers coming to the aid of people trapped on mountains or cliffs, or suffering from injuries at a sporting event, including the North West 200.
Only recently, many people watched a particularly daring rescue at dusk in Belfast when a helicopter winched to safety a German student who had fallen from the Cave Hill.
We thank, admire and salute the bravery of all concerned in such rescues.
Our thoughts go out to the family of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick and all those who face danger by going out to help others.