Eyewitness describes shocking incident in which UCC researchers survived air crash
An eyewitness has described the incredible moment a heroic pilot successfully crash-landed a twin-engine plane suffering a major malfunction on a Wexford beach.
The pilot, named locally as Ioan Antaul – aged in his 50s – has been hailed a hero for his skilled handling of an incident emergency services personnel stressed could easily have ended in tragedy.
The aircraft came to a halt on Carne beach, just inshore of Lady’s Island near Carnsore Point, less than two metres from the sea with the tide partly out at 5.20pm on Thursday.
A major response operation was immediately launched, including all emergency services, including the Coast Guard, RNLI, gardaí and paramedics.
One rescue official who attended the scene said it was “an absolute miracle” the four occupants of the French-registered Vulcanair P68 aircraft escaped with just fractures and bruises.
“Pilots faced with such emergencies usually trade altitude for time.
“This pilot didn’t have that luxury and was faced with an emergency while over water,” he said.
“The indications are that the emergency occurred at a height of only around 80 metres, so it was astonishing skill to get the plane down successfully in such a short timespan.
"The pilot literally had only seconds to react.”
Independent.ie can reveal the three passengers in the aircraft were UCC researchers who were carrying out a marine life survey in the area.
A spokesman for UCC said the university was offering support to its staff.
“UCC can confirm that its staff were passengers on the aircraft that was surveying marine life in Irish offshore waters, as part of the ObSERVE II project.
"UCC is supporting its staff at this time.”
Niall Hore, from Wexford town, was fishing at Carnsore Point when the shocking incident unfolded.
“I was standing looking out over the beach, and I didn’t even really hear it until it was very close,” he said.
“It passed overhead and was flying very low over the rocks at the point before coming into the tideline and crashing down, stopping dead, into the sand.”
Mr Hore began running along the beach toward the stricken plane and its passengers.
“I was halfway down the beach to the plane when I realised, ‘I’ve no idea what I’m going to see here,” he said.
“We ran down, and two people were out of the plane and were shouting for us to call 112.
"The two people in the back of the plane were able to get out and had dragged out the pilot and co-pilot, and they were propped up against the plane.
"We just tried to keep them talking to make sure they were OK.
“One of the women was pretty bad and was covered in blood and not saying much, so we tried to talk to her to make sure she was OK.”
The pilot, Mr Antaul, who is believed to have suffered two broken legs, managed to land the plane and had just over 90 seconds to react.
It is understood the aircraft was flying at an altitude of just 80 metres as it carried out a low-level survey operation when the engine suffered a major malfunction.
A three-person team from the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) travelled to the scene in Wexford and have started a preliminary examination of the aircraft wreckage.
Aviation inspector Jurgen White said a key element of their work would be speaking with the pilot and passengers once they were medically fit to determine what happened.
Registered in France, the twin-engine aircraft has been on charter work in Ireland over recent weeks.