Sunday 17 December 2017

The survivors tell their stories

Heather Elliot (57)

Heather Elliot
Heather Elliot
Laurence Wilson
Donal Walsh
Peter Cowley
Mark Dickens
Brendan Mallon

She was flying to Cork from Belfast that day to visit her mother in Kinsale.

"I was so terrified that we had survived the crash only to be burned alive.

"I held Laurence's (Wilson) hand and Laurence and I said a prayer together. . . I heard a weak voice saying: 'help me'. I was afraid it (the plane) was going to go up in flames.

"I felt something soft and wet and realised later it was mud from the grass pushed into the cabin during the crash."

In the minutes before the crash, she was nervous about the plane's third attempt to land in thick fog. "I was worrying about fuel."

She described the impact as shocking. "Suddenly, it was like a car crash . . . we were tumbling."

Peter Cowley (35)

The business executive based in Glanmire, Co Cork suffered such severe injuries that he has no recollection of the crash itself.

"I fell asleep (leaving Belfast). I was travelling alone.

"When I woke up I was aware of people saying we were going to land for a second time.

"I saw the fog out of the window.

"No one seemed overly concerned. But the plane pulled back up again.

"My mother was at Cork Airport so I sent her a text saying I thought we were going to Kerry.

"I have no recollection of anything after that," said Mr Cowely, who thanked the emergency services and said his thoughts were with the families of the deceased.

Mark Dickens (44)

The father-of-three from Kent in southern England was travelling to Cork from Belfast on business. He realised as the plane attempted its third landing that something was badly wrong.

"I shouted that we were going to crash. The whole episode from emerging from the fog to the wing touching the ground took about five seconds. I think I shouted that we were going to crash and then there was just noise, mud. I saw the wing tip touch the ground."

Mr Dickens said he was in excruciating pain and trapped in the fuselage but remembers rescuers banging on the plane and saying: 'Don't worry, we are here, we are here'.

"Then I heard someone say: 'I can't breathe. My name is Brendan, please help'. I was screaming (in pain)."

Brendan Mallon (39)

The executive with Falcon Travel was visiting Cork to assist with the establishment of a shop in Bandon.

He was unable to attend the inquest yesterday. The trip was his first with

Laurence Wilson (58)

The Antrim-based executive runs a training firm and was travelling to Cork on business that day.

"I was one of the last to board (in Belfast)."

He said he thought the pilot tried to abort the third Cork landing and lift off again in the seconds before the 9.48am impact.

"It banked to the right and the right wing touched the runway in my opinion."

After the plane ground to a halt upside down off the runway, it was chaos inside the cabin.

"I heard shouting and screaming.

"I held her (Ms Elliot's) hand . . . I heard Donal Walsh say there was a fire."

Donal Walsh (26)

The Waterford-based student had been in Belfast on business and was returning home via Cork.

"I knew this (third landing attempt) was not normal but I put it to the back of my mind.

"(On the third approach) I saw grass on the runway. I thought it was very close and that we were going very fast."

"I braced myself and put my head in my hands and down between my knees.

"There was a thud or a crash and the plane turned over.

"The engine was roaring and there was a lot of noise. I didn't hear crying or screaming.

"Then all I could hear was a lot of groans from the front of the aircraft."

Irish Independent

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