By EMMA VANDORE, Associated Press Writer
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 Butler paid tribute to his daughter Tuesday from his home in Roscrea, County Tipperary.
"She was a truly wonderful, exciting girl," he told Irish reporters. "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-mails 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. We will miss your dancing feet," her parents and siblings said in a statement. "Her friends will, we hope, remember their special time together with fondness and joy, despite its tragic end."
Brazilian military pilots spotted an airplane seat, a life jacket, metallic debris and signs of fuel in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday as they hunted for the missing jet, but found no signs of life.
Two Americans were aboard the plane, Michael Harris, a 60-year-old geologist in Devon Energy Corp.'s Rio de Janeiro office, and his wife, Anne. They had moved from Houston in July.
Among the plane's 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.
Canadian Brad Clemes, a 49-year-old Coca-Cola executive working in Brussels, was also on the flight, according to a family friend. Clemes was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario.
German-based ThyssenKrupp Steel AG said executive board member Erich Heine, responsible for major projects in Brazil and the U.S., was on the flight, as was employee Claus-Peter Hellhammer.
Heine, born in South Africa in 1967, joined ThyssenKrupp Steel's board in 2006, in charge of its steelmaking business unit. Since 2007, he was responsible for building two steel plants in Rio de Janeiro and in Alabama.
Hellhammer, 28, was returning from a private trip to Brazil from his base in Duisburg, Germany.
Ten salesmen from CGED, an electrical distributor, were on the plane with their spouses after winning a vacation to Brazil, Europe-1 radio reported.
French tiremaker Michelin lost three executives, including two senior Brazilian managers and Christine Pieraerts, a 28-year-old 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. He had worked for Michelin for 27 years.
Brazilian information systems director, Antonio Gueiros, with Michelin for over 20 years, was coming to Paris for a computer seminar.
The five Britons on the plane included 61-year-old British engineer Arthur Coakley, from near Whitby, North Yorkshire. 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. It's not going to happen, is it?" she told Britain's Press Association.
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.
Patricia Coakley said her son Patrick raised the alarm, phoning to ask "What flight is Daddy on?"
She tried phoning her husband's mobile on Monday but gave up Tuesday.
"Yesterday I was really optimistic, today maybe more realistic," she said.
Prince Pedro Luis de Orleans e Braganca, 26, a member of Brazil's now-defunct royal family and a descendent of Dom Pedro II, the nation's last emperor, was on the plane. So was sailor Zoran Markovic, 45, from the village of Kostelji in northwestern Croatia.
Air France said 11 of the 12 crew members were French but did not release their names.
The flight captain, 58, joined Air France in 1988 and had 11,000 hours of flight hours including 1,700 on aircraft of the same type as the A330-200 that disappeared.
The two co-pilots were 37 and 32 and had over 9,000 flight hours between them.
The head of the cabin crew was 49, his deputies were 54 and 46 years old. Of the six flight attendants aged between 24 and 44, one was Brazilian.