Among 228 lost aboard, a doctor-dancer and a boarding school pupil

Irish dancer-turned-doctor Eithne Walls was on Air France Flight 447. Irish dancer-turned-doctor Eithne Walls was on Air France Flight 447.
By Shawn Pogatchnik
Associated Press / June 3, 2009
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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 228 people believed killed in the crash of Air France Flight 447, leaving broken hearts from Rio to Paris and far beyond.

"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."

John Butler initially thought his 26-year-old daughter, Aisling, was booked on a different flight. He 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 with a larger group of Trinity grads.

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

The two Americans on board the plane, geologist Michael Harris and his wife, Anne, had 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, Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp.

Harris, who turned 60 last month, had planned to attend seminars in Barcelona, 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's sister, Mary Miley, told the Lafayette, La., newspaper The Advertiser. "My only comfort is that they died together."

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 is presumed to have killed all 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 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 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.

Brazil-born orthodontist Jose Souza had honed his skills as a surfer since age 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 a member.

Among the 61 victims from France were 10 salesmen and their spouses from a French electronics supply company, CGE Distribution, who won a company prize of a trip to Brazil. They "had a great year that wrapped up with this dream trip," said Jean-Pierre Nardou of CGE.

Salesman Stephane Artiguenave, 35, and his wife, Sandrine, 34, left behind a 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son in their Bordeaux village of Saint-Martin-de-Sescas.

The man's brother-in-law, Christophe Champenaud, complained that Air France officials had provided no help. "Not even to figure out how to tell the children about their parents' deaths," he said.

Eleven-year-old Alexander Bjoroy was returning to his English boarding school, Clifton College, after spending a school break with his family in Brazil.

Among the 58 Brazilian victims was Pedro Luis de Orleans e Braganca, a 26-year-old descendant of Brazil's last emperor, Dom Pedro II.

Arthur Coakley, 61, an English oil-rig engineer, shouldn't have been on the ill-fated flight at all. He was supposed to have taken a weekend flight out of Rio, but was bumped because it was overbooked.