TWO experienced flyers were killed when the light aircraft they were travelling in smashed into the side of a mountain.
The men, named as Bryan Keane from Athboy, Co Meath, who was in his 60s, and Paul Smith, also from Meath and in his 50s, died when the plane crashed in the Blackstairs Mountain range on the Carlow-Wexford border.
The wreckage of the Cessna 182 plane was found by a hill walker near the peak of Blackstairs Common shortly after 4.30pm yesterday.
The men took off from Ballyboy airfield in Athboy shortly after 10am and it is believed they were heading for Wexford racecourse.
Emergency services were scrambled, but it is believed search and rescue teams had to rely on helicopters to take them to the scene.
Mr Smith, who made trophies for a living, and Athboy credit union chairman Mr Keane boarded the plane with two pet dogs which also died.
There were no reports of any distress signal being sent, and weather conditions were said to be very good.
Last night, councillor David Gilroy said the accident had left Athboy in shock.
"Both men were pillars of the community," he said. "Bryan nurtured the credit union back to health after the recession.
"He was an experienced flyer. When we were young lads we always used to look up in the sky and see him flying around in microlights. From there he moved to planes.
"Paul was a gentleman too. Everyone in the community knew him. He made trophies and medals for all the sports clubs."
South East Mountain Rescue confirmed at 6pm that they had reached the wrecked plane.
It came down close to the village of Kiltealy in Co Wexford. Locals reported seeing a very low-flying aircraft.
The Air Accident Investigation Unit is looking into the accident and gardai from Enniscorthy are directing the recovery operation.
A spokesperson for Ballyboy airfield said both victims were "experienced pilots".
It is not the first time a plane has crashed on Ireland's fourth-highest mountain. On September 7, 1983, four people from Birmingham were killed when their Cessna 182 crashed close to the summit.