Mother's grief as jungle plane crash claims son
THE mother of an Irishman who died when his chartered aircraft went down over dense jungle in central Africa last night paid tribute to her beloved son.
Antrim-born James Cassley (30), who grew up in Quin, Co Clare, was travelling on a British passport from Cameroon to the neighbouring Congo Republic when aviation officials lost contact with the aircraft which was also carrying a group of Australian mining magnates.
James, an only child, was married to a Chinese woman, Hong. He worked for a Canadian investment bank in London and was in Africa on business.
Another passenger was Ken Talbot, one of Australia's richest men.
The aircraft disappeared from the radar after leaving the capital of Cameroon, Yaounde, on Saturday bound for Yangadou in the northwest of Congo Republic which is also known as Congo-Brazzaville.
"It is unfortunate that we fear that the 11 people on board, all of them have died," Information Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told a news conference in Yaounde yesterday. "We have retrieved between nine and 10 bodies," he added.
Mr Bakary said the bodies had not yet been identified and authorities were waiting to study the private CASA C212 prop plane's black box for clues to why it came down 10km inside the Congolese border with Cameroon.
The aircraft, chartered from a Congo company, was carrying Mr Cassley, six Australians, two French, a Briton and an American, most of whom were from Sundance Resources Limited, a mining concern based in western Australia. Sundance Resources said that most of those on board the flight were visiting the company's iron ore project in Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville.
Mr Cassley's parents Mona and Hector were last night told that the crash site had been found and that nobody could have survived.
"It's very raw at the moment because we only got the word this evening," Mrs Cassley said from her Quin home.
"We got notification from James's boss that they had found the crash site and that there could not be any survivors.
"We didn't want to believe it and we kept questioning it, but we have to accept it now."
"We are just in shock at the moment. We're not really processing anything. We have some family and friends here and we're just reminiscing."
His mother added: "Hong is absolutely devastated. They were to celebrate their third wedding anniversary soon. We went shopping for a birthday present for him on Saturday.
"We thought the last time he was over that his coat looked shabby, so we got him a nice new navy overcoat. It's hanging up here now and we'll never get to give it to him.
"I have no idea what happened out there but I expect there'll be a full investigation. James was born in Ballymena, Co Antrim, but he has lived here since he was six and he loved Ireland.
"He was always travelling back and forth and was here for a family wedding just two weeks ago.
"He would be considered a local. James was a very intelligent, pleasant person and a joy to be around. He was one of a kind and just a very bright lad, and a loving son.
"He loved to travel and always did so extensively both in his personal life and at work. He never went on a beach holiday in his life."
She also revealed how James had met billionaire Mr Talbot en route to Africa and had travelled there on his private jet but they were forced to charter the ill-fated plane when Cameroonian authorities would not let them use the jet to fly to Congo.
"He met Ken and travelled on his private jet to Cameroon but they weren't allowed to use it to get to the Congo, so they chartered the plane," she said.
Mrs Cassley and her husband are to travel to London tomorrow before going on to Africa.