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Tributes as blaze put out within four minutes of impact

THE emergency services were hailed as heroes last night for helping minimise the death toll in the Manx2 airline tragedy.

More than 100 members of the emergency services were deployed within 20 minutes of the turboprop aircraft crashing at Cork Airport.

A fire on the aircraft was crucially extinguished just four minutes after the plane crashed.

The Fairchild Metroliner aircraft crashed at 9.52am -- and Cork Airport fire services units were at the wreckage within two minutes.

Two minutes later they successfully extinguished the engine fire.

The entire Cork County Emergency Plan was put in place -- with all air traffic diverted throughout the day from Cork to Shannon and Kerry. Only airport personnel and emergency services were allowed vehicle access to the airport.

The airport will remain closed until later today when the Irish Aviation Authority will update the position.

More than 100 emergency personnel were deployed to the airport including: 35 gardai; 10 fire brigade units, including 50 personnel; as well as 30 HSE staff spread over nine ambulances, three rapid response units and four advanced paramedics.

Just 10 minutes after the accident, the shattered plane was deemed safe to enter.

So speedy was the Cork Airport and Cork fire brigade response that the fire did not spread from the plane's wrecked engine and fuel tanks to its main cabin.

The six dead are believed to have died from impact injuries -- none had any visible burn injuries.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen last night said the rescue services responded with skill and professionalism -- and he personally met with the staff who were first to reach the stricken plane.

"I have been briefed by the Cork Airport chief executive (Pat) Keohane and it is a very difficult day for everyone. Today is a day for acknowledging a very tragic loss -- it is the first such incident I understand in relation to a commercial aircraft that has ever taken place at an Irish state airport."

Supt Charlie Barry also paid tribute to the rescue services -- and said he was astonished to see one passenger climbing relatively unhurt from the plane's wreckage just minutes after the crash.

A second passenger later managed to get himself out of the wreckage -- with three passengers later taken out by stretcher. Another passenger had to be cut free.

Six people were pronounced dead at the scene and their bodies were initially kept at a temporary morgue at Cork Airport before being transferred to CUH. Post-mortem examinations will commence today.

Cork County manager Martin Riordan, Cork Airport manager Pat Keohane and Supt Barry said that the emergency services had acted with the utmost professionalism and skill.

Irish Independent