Two men killed after light aircraft crashes into side of mountain
Two experienced pilots have died after their light aircraft smashed into the side of a mountain.
Meath men Bryan Keane (69) and Paul Smith (58) died after their plane crashed in the Blackstairs Mountain range on the Carlow/Wexford border.
The wreckage was discovered by a hillwalker near the peak of Blackstairs Commons shortly after 4.30pm yesterday.
Emergency services scrambled to the scene. However, rescue teams had to rely on helicopters to transport them to the crash site, which is inaccessible by road.
Mr Keane, who was originally from Athboy but living in Kells, and Mr Smith, who was from Athboy, took off from Athboy Aerodrome in Ballyboy shortly after 10am.
Mr Smith, who made trophies for a living, and Mr Keane, chairperson of Athboy credit union, boarded the plane with two pet dogs, who also died in the crash.
There were no reports of any distress signal being sent out before the accident.
Locals in the village of Kiltealy, Co Wexford, close to where the tragedy occurred, reported seeing a low-flying aircraft circling the area for up to an hour in the early afternoon.
Weather conditions were said to be very good in the area.
Last night, local Councillor David Gilroy said the whole community was in shock after hearing of the crash.
“Both men were pillars of the community here,” he said.
“Bryan was an extreme gentleman and nurtured the credit union back to health after the recession.
“He was an extremely experienced flyer. When we were young lads we always used to look up in the sky and see him flying around in microlites above our heads and from there he moved to planes.
“There was even a rumour going around that he flew solo to America once,” said Mr Gilroy.
“Paul was a gentleman also and everyone in the community knew him. He made trophies and medals for all the sports clubs,” he added.
The Air Accident Investigation Unit is investigating the crash and the scene was cordoned off last night with tents erected around the wreckage.
It is not the first occasion that a plane has crashed in the mountains.
On the morning of September 7, 1983, four people from Birmingham were tragically killed when their Cessna 182 crashed close to the summit of Mount Leinster.
They were on a flight bound for Kilkenny when the aircraft hit the 2,409ft mountain.
Yesterday’s crash occurred in an area known locally as Blackstairs Commons and is said to be inaccessible by road.
A Coast Guard helicopter and a team from South East Mountain Rescue helped in the search and recovery operation.