Belfast Telegraph

Pilot hanged himself ‘because he felt guilty over Cork crash'

BY Mark Lister and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A heartbroken dad has told how his son hanged himself because of “fear” and “guilt” he felt over the Cork air disaster that killed six people.

The plane’s two pilots were killed along with four people with links to Northern Ireland — Richard Noble (49), Michael Evans (51), Pat Cullinan (45) and Brendan McAleese (39), a cousin of Irish president Mary McAleese’s husband.

Several other people were seriously injured, including Falcon Holidays executive Brendan Mallon.

British pilot Oliver Lee (29) used to fly for the Manx2 airline between Belfast and Cork twice daily.

Just days before the fatal crash Mr Lee left the company to join Jet2, but he blamed himself for the tragedy.

He believed it would never have happened if he was at the controls, as he was familiar with foggy conditions in Cork.

The body of Mr Lee was found in the stables of his family home in England, which he shared with his father David (54) and sister Harriet (21), by a Jet2 colleague.

David Lee last night said the crash came as an “utter shock” to his son.

British co-pilot Andrew Cantle (27) was the designated flying pilot when the 19-year-old Fairchild Metroliner crashed on the runway on February 10.

The flight’s captain, Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez (31), did not take over the controls — even after two failed landing attempts in the fog by the co-pilot, an initial air accident investigation found.

On a third landing attempt, the right wing tip clipped the runway and the aircraft overturned, skidded and caught fire. Miraculously six people survived.

Mr Lee said his son “felt strongly” that if he had been there “nobody would have died”.

“Five days after Oliver left, the plane he used to fly with Manx2 came down,” he said.

“It was an utter shock to Oliver, as he knew the pilot very well.

“Despite me and his colleague telling him there was nothing he could have done and it was not his fault, he just couldn’t accept it. It just all got too much for him.

“If I had known he was suicidal I would not have let him out of my sight.”

He added: “He knew the fog problems associated with Cork and he would say that he would have either postponed the flight for safety reasons, or landed it without incident.”

Mr Lee said Jet2 had offered Oliver a position flying Boeing 737s from Leeds/Bradford Airport, closer to his home, and he joined the Yorkshire company in early February.

His mother Louise, who died five years ago, had worked as a base manager at Leeds/Bradford Airport for Serviceair and Oliver would work there during school holidays and university breaks.

His father added: “Airports and airlines were in Oliver’s blood.”

A spokesperson for Jet2.com said: “We are saddened at the news of Oliver Lee’s tragic death and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult period.”

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