Tuesday 6 December 2016

Suicide pilot 'felt guilty' over Cork plane crash

Mark Lister and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 29/04/2011 | 05:00

A HEARTBROKEN father yesterday told of how his son had hanged himself because of "fear" and "guilt" he felt over the Cork air disaster that killed six people in February.

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British pilot Oliver Lee (29) used to fly for the Manx2 airline between Belfast and Cork.

Just days before the fatal crash, Mr Lee left the airline to join British-based Jet2, but he blamed himself for the tragedy.

He believed it would never have happened if he was at the controls, as he was familiar with foggy conditions in Cork.

Mr Lee's body was found by a Jet2 colleague in the stables of his family home in England, which he shared with his father David (54) and sister Harriet (21).

David Lee last night said the Cork crash came as an "utter shock" to his son, who knew the pilot well.

British co-pilot Andrew Cantle (27) was the designated flying pilot when the 19-year-old Fairchild Metroliner crashed on the Cork airport runway on February 10. The flight's captain, Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez (31), did not take over the controls -- even after two failed landing attempts in the fog by the co-pilot, an initial air accident investigation found.

On a third landing attempt, the right wing tip clipped the runway and the aircraft overturned, skidded and caught fire.

Miraculously, six people survived.

David Lee said his son, Oliver, "felt strongly" that if he'd been there, "nobody would have died".

"He knew the fog problems associated with Cork and he would say that he would have either postponed the flight for safety reasons, or landed it without incident," he added.

Oliver became very anxious after the crash. "Despite me and his colleague telling him there was nothing he could have done and it was not his fault, he just couldn't accept it.

"If I had known he was suicidal, I would not have let him out of my sight."

Speaking from the family home in East Morton, near Bingley, West Yorks, David said Oliver had been dating girlfriend Katie Long for more than five years, and had hoped to marry her.

Jet2 had offered Oliver a position flying Boeing 737s from Leeds-Bradford Airport, which is closer to his home, and he joined the Yorkshire company in early February.

His father added: "Airports and airlines were in Oliver's blood. It was his life."

A spokesperson for Jet2.com said: "We are saddened at the news of Oliver Lee's tragic death and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult period."

Irish Independent

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