Tuesday 23 January 2018

Miracle escape for pilot and passenger in crash

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

AN EXPERIENCED pilot and his 80-year-old passenger had a miracle escape when their two-seater aircraft crash-landed in a field.

Father-of-two Denis O'Connor from Gusserane, Co Wexford, who had never had an accident previously in 40 years of flying, managed to climb out of the wreckage and raise the alarm in a nearby house.

It is understood the worst of Mr O'Connor's injuries was a broken jaw.

The two-seater aircraft is owned by John Duggan -- an 80-year-old man from Newlands, Co Wexford, who was a passenger on the fateful journey. Mr Duggan had to be cut from the aircraft, which was badly damaged.

Mr O'Connor, who is a dairy farmer in his 50s, was trying to land the Avid Mark IV in a field near New Ross after he detected smoke in the cockpit.

A family member last night said Mr O'Connor had a "lucky escape" before adding: "He'll be fine. He's been flying since the early 1970s and he's never, ever had a crash before. He had a lucky escape but flying is a risky business."

He added something happened and "they tried to land the plane in the field. There was some kind of smoke in the cockpit -- not the normal kind but it was like electrical smoke".

Air accident investigators who examined the scene in the aftermath of the collision were taking the plane apart last night in a bid to find out what happened. Mr O'Connor was taken to Wexford General Hospital following the crash where he is recovering from what his family described as "serious injuries".

Mr Duggan is in Water-ford Regional Hospital, where his condition was described as stable.

The crash happened at around 5.45pm on Sunday. The plane was on a local flight from its base at Taghmon Airfield in Co Wexford when it crashed 7km away in Foulksmills.

Emergency services were notified and the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) was contacted. Ambulances transported the men to hospital while the AAIU arrived on site at Foulksmills at 9.30pm to start the probe.

AAIU investigator Leo Murray confirmed the plane had problems approaching landing. "We're not sure what happened yet but a forced landing was being carried out. The pilot was trying to land when the accident happened.

"The pilot exited the aircraft and made his way to a local home and raised the alarm after 6pm."

Mr Murray said no power lines or trees were hit by the plane on its way down. He also said the landing was "difficult" as the ground was "very rough".

A preliminary examination of the Avid small plane was conducted in the field on Sunday night and early yesterday. However, the plane was removed to a hangar at Gormanston, Co Meath, where it was being disassembled last night.

Irish Independent

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