Tuesday 23 January 2018

Painstaking investigation as two men killed in plane crash

The scene in Kiltealy on Sunday, where emergency services established a base.

A PAINSTAKING investigation is to take place over the coming days and weeks into what caused a light aircraft to crash near the summit of Mount Leinster on the Wexford-Carlow border on Sunday afternoon, killing the two men and their pet dogs on board.

The last of the rescuers came off the mountain shortly after midnight on Sunday in what was described as a very demanding and challenging incident extending over 10 hours.

Lifelong friends Bryan Keane, aged 69, and Paul Smith, aged 58, were flying in a Cessna 182, which earlier in the day had taken off from Athboy Aerodrome in County Meath, in good weather conditions. There are no reports of any distress signals being sent and following the impact parts of the wrecked aircraft are scattered over a wide area on the mountainside at Blackstairs Commons. It does not appear to have caught fire.

The Air Corps are due to recover the wreckage which will be taken for forensic examination by the Air Accident Investigation Unit.

Read more here: Plane hit 'close to the summit'

The alarm was raised by a hillwalker, who called the emergency services after seeing the plane come down on the mountain. Rescue teams from Wicklow, Waterford and other neighbouring counties responded, setting up a forward base in the village of Kiltealy with local gardai and government agencies.

The bodies of the two men have since been recovered and taken to Waterford Regional Hospital where post mortems were being carried out.

Local councillor Barbara-Ann Murphy, from Bunclody, said people in Kiltealy were very shocked.

'I was out there yesterday (Sunday) and it was an awful thing to happen,' she said, praising rescuers from as far away as Limerick who responded as well as local people who did all they could to help.

The car park at Bowes shop and pub was used as a command centre while Duffry Rovers' pitch became a landing zone for the Rescue 117 helicopter as it ferried members of the mountain rescue units and gardai to the crash site and early on Monday the bodies of the two men.

Both men who died in the crash were described as pillars of the local community. Bryan Keane, the chairman of Athboy Credit Union, worked as a metalwork teacher in Athboy for many years before moving to Kells. He leaves behind two sons and a daughter aged in their 30s. Paul, owner of a trophy-making business,leaves behind a wife.

The men, both experienced pilots, were flying to, or were on their way back from, Wexford when the accident happened.

The area where their plane crashed is about a mile from where four people were killed when their light plane came down on the mountain in 1983. They were on a flight from Birmingham to Kilkenny when the aircraft hit the 2,409 feet high Mount Leinster, the fourth highest mountain in Ireland.

The South Eastern Mountain Rescue said it was taking part in a scheduled mountain rescue practice in the Comeragh Mountains on Sunday, when it received a call out to respond to a light aircraft crash in the Blackstairs Mountains.

'The multi-agency operation involving the Coastguard, gardai, air accident investigators, SARDA (Search and Rescue Dog Association), HSE and Mountain Rescue located and recovered the remains of the two casualties from the crash scene as darkness fell on Sunday night,' it said in a statement.

'The last of the mountain rescue members came off the mountain shortly after midnight in what was a very challenging and demanding incident extending over 10 hours. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased following this sad event.'

A posting on the rescuers' website, from Catherine Keane, says: 'Thank you all so much from a sister of one of the men involved. You work so hard in horrific circumstances. It is very much appreciated.'

Wexford People

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