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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Miracle helicopter escape for dad of doctor killed in Air France crash

Brian Byrne

Published 02/08/2014 | 02:30

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The accident happened near the village of Kinnity in Co Offaly Photo: Micheal Coughlan

THE father of a young doctor who died in the Air France plane tragedy has had a miracle escape after his helicopter crashed in a field.

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Onlookers told how John Butler – the businessman father of Aisling Butler (26), who tragically lost her life with her two friends in 2009 – walked away unscathed after the helicopter he was flying crashed near the village of Kinnitty, Co Offaly.

Mr Butler, who was on his own, had been on his way to pick up two newly-weds to transport them to their wedding reception.

Evelyn Butler, the wife of Mr Butler and mother of Aisling, yesterday confirmed he had crashed the helicopter.

Mrs Butler said the family has had "no peace" since their daughter died in the Air France plane crash in 2009.

Evelyn Butler was visiting her sister when she learned that John crashed his R44 Raven helicopter.

It is believed that it clipped wires as it came in to land in a field beside Kinnitty National School shortly before 4pm.

Mr Butler, who is understood to be in his 50s and from the Roscrea area, emerged almost completely unscathed.

The owner of Adare International Transport Ltd had been due to take newly-weds Damien and Wendy Hussey from the landing site a short distance from the church in Kinnitty to their reception at Racket Hall Country House in Roscrea, Co Tipperary.

Mrs Butler told the Irish Independent: "I don't know exactly what happened, but John phoned the office after the accident. I was at my sister's house, and they called me to tell me what happened. They said nobody was injured but that there had just been an accident."

Mrs Butler said that it "goes without saying" that she was relieved to discover her husband was safe.

Mrs Butler explained: "John has been flying helicopters for years. He's a qualified pilot. The helicopter is our own, we've had it since before Aisling's accident. I don't like talking about Aisling's accident. There's too many memories. With the Malaysia Airlines crash recently, we have no peace really."

The badly damaged helicopter ended up on its side on the grass, with the tail snapped off and the propellers broken.

Emergency services doused the aircraft in foam following the crash and gardai sealed off the area. The Air Accident Investigation Unit has launched an inquiry into the cause of the crash.

Eyewitness Micheal Coughlan spotted the crash after the wedding service.

"I heard a helicopter rotating above us and then I heard a thump and I knew it was after crashing," he said. "When we got to the crash site, the pilot was wandering around looking a bit dazed. I asked him was he okay and he said he just had a scratch on his arm. Apart from that he was fine."

Aisling was 26 when she died on an Air France flight travelling from Rio in Brazil to Paris in June 2009.

Jane Deasy (27), from Rathgar, Co Dublin, and Eithne Walls (28), from Ballygowan, Co Down, also died in the crash which claimed 228 lives.

Irish Independent

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