Saturday 16 February 2019

Pilot dies as plane plunges into field

Emergency crews sift through the wreckage of the plane that
crashed on the Mayo-Roscommon border
Emergency crews sift through the wreckage of the plane that crashed on the Mayo-Roscommon border

Brian McDonald and Tom Shiel

One man was killed and another critically injured when their light aircraft crashed into an open field just miles from an airport yesterday afternoon.

The single-engined aircraft is understood to have taken off from Knock Airport a short time before the crash on the Mayo-Roscommon border. It was flying to Weston Airport in Co Dublin, but apparently developed engine problems and was attempting to return to Knock when it crashed.

It came down in a field near Kilmovee, about eight kilometres from the town of Ballaghaderreen, at approximately 4.45pm.

The wreckage of the Beech 77 was strewn over a wide area, but the main area of impact appeared to be close to a derelict building in the field.

There wasn't any sign of an emergency landing at the crash site and it is thought the plane plummeted to the ground.

The wreckage strewn around the field -- a heap of badly crumpled metal and strewn debris -- bore little resemblance to the original aircraft.

Airport

The pilot had previously radioed that he was in difficulties and was attempting to return to the Co Mayo airport.

One man, aged 51 and thought to have been the pilot, was pronounced dead at the scene and his only travelling companion sustained very serious injuries. He was rushed to hospital in Castlebar where his condition last night was described as critical.

The pilot is well-known in local aviation circles and is understood to have experience as a flying instructor.

Helicopter

After the pilot had radioed that he was in trouble, a helicopter set out from Knock Airport and was hovering in the vicinity when the crash happened.

The emergency services were on the scene of the crash within minutes.

A spokesperson for the Air Accident Investigation Unit also said that they had immediately sent a crew to the scene and a full investigation would be carried out.

Air accident investigators were due at the scene shortly after 9pm.

Gardai at Swinford station are also carrying out an investigation.

A spokesman said the name of the dead man would not be released until all family members had been informed.

Local family, the O'Donnells, were among the first on the scene.

Maura O'Donnell Murphy said: "The plane was very badly damaged but one wing was still intact. I didn't notice any unusual sounds from the engine before the plane crash-landed."

Firemen from Ballaghaderreen, Charlestown and Claremorris attended the scene and gardai sealed off the crash site pending a detailed examination of the area today by an air-accident team from the Department of Transport.

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