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Air France crash leaves global trail of pain
Updated: 2009-06-03 11:38

DUBLIN -- Three young Irish doctors -- one a Riverdance performer -- returning from a vacation to Brazil. An American geologist and his wife headed to Europe for work and some R&R. An 11-year-old boy traveling alone on his way back to an English boarding school.

All were among the victims of Air France Flight 447, leaving broken hearts from Rio to Paris and far beyond.

Air France crash leaves global trail of pain
Distraught relatives and friends of passengers of Air France flight AF447 arrive at the crisis centre at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris June 1, 2009. [Agencies]

"We will miss your dancing feet," read a tribute from the Northern Ireland family of Eithne Walls, 29, the dancer-turned-doctor. "We will miss your silliness, your wit and your hugs. We will always hold you in our hearts and you are never truly gone."

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John Butler initially thought his 26-year-old daughter, Aisling Butler, was booked on a different flight and had to retrieve her itinerary from his deleted e-mail folder to check.

"When I opened it up, a nightmare opened up as well," he said, speaking from the family's home in rural County Tipperary.

Walls, Butler and their best friend from Ireland's Trinity College, 28-year-old Jane Deasy -- the daughter of a Dublin surgeon -- graduated together from medical school in 2007 and had spent two weeks in Brazil as part of a larger group of Trinity grads.

While others traveled on to Australia, the trio headed home to resume their busy medical careers.

"Her friends will, we hope, remember their special time together with fondness and joy, despite its tragic end," read the tribute to Walls, who spent nearly a decade dancing in Riverdance troupes from New York to Shanghai and was pursuing a career as a Dublin eye surgeon.

Some families recalled how their loved ones had survived dangerous jobs or medical crises, only to perish in Monday's unexplained crash over the Atlantic Ocean, which was presumed to have killed all 228 on board.

Christine Pieraerts, a 28-year-old Michelin tire engineer from France had recovered from a stroke and was returning home after a 10-day visit to see her boyfriend in Brazil.

"We were very happy because she was starting to take up her activities and a normal life again. Fate caught up with her and us," said her older brother Michel.

Graham Gardner, a 52-year-old seaman from Scotland, had braved gale-force winds and other dangers aboard tankers, ferries and container ships before taking charge of an oil pipe-laying vessel, the Lochnagar.

He commuted monthly from Brazil back home to his wife, Joyce, who described him as "such a loving, caring and laid-back man. Nothing fazed him."

Brazil-born orthodontist Jose Souza, had honed his skills as a surfer since the age of 9, traveling worldwide to take on the most challenging waves.

Souza "would regularly chase waves all over Europe and the world at a moment's notice," recalled Ben Farwagi, president of the London Surf Club Big Wave Team, which counted Souza as a member.

In a statement still posted on the club's Web site Tuesday, Souza spoke of his love of the sea. "I have ridden big waves all around the world, but particularly like Sunset Beach (Hawaii), J-Bay (South Africa) and Mundaka (Spain). I now just want to go bigger!!!"

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