Belfast Telegraph

Pilot killed himself after torment sparked by Cork air crash, inquest hears

An airline pilot killed himself in the belief he was to blame for the Cork air crash which killed six people, an inquest has heard.

Skilled flyer Oliver Lee (29) was “rattled” by the thought he could have prevented the disaster if he'd been in the cockpit of the doomed plane when it took off from Belfast.

Troubled Mr Lee hanged himself after the Manx2 plane crashed in Cork in February, just days after he left the company to start training with Jet2.

He was convinced he would have negotiated the thick fog and landed Manx2 Flight 7100 safely.

An inquest held in Bradford, West Yorks, was told Mr Lee’s body was discovered by a Jet2 colleague, who was also a friend, at his family's home in East Morton on Easter Sunday this year.

The former Bradford Grammar School pupil had failed to meet up with his pilot pal Duncan Hastie to revise for an upcoming test he was worried about.

Mr Hastie and Mr Lee's sister Harriet had returned to search outbuildings after first checking the local pub and even the grave of his mother Louise.

The inquest heard how Mr Lee had been shocked and upset by the Manx2 disaster which happened as the plane, carrying 10 passengers and two crew, crashed on the runway on its third attempt to land at Cork Airport.

Six people were killed in the flight which had departed from George Best Belfast City Airport, including four businessmen from Northern Ireland.

Mr Hastie told the inquest his friend had discussed the crash with him and knew if he had still been with Manx2 “there was every possibility he would have been rostered” to fly the ill-fated plane.

“He said he would not have let it happen,” said Mr Hastie.

An investigation into what caused the crash is still ongoing.

Mr Hastie said Mr Lee, who made “very good judgment calls”, had seemed “overburdened” and was not enjoying the intensive Jet2 training.

“I don't know why it [the crash] had an effect on him, but it had a big effect,” he said.

The month Mr Lee died, he had gone for counselling and had told therapist Joyce Ormesher he felt he had lost confidence and felt if he had been flying that plane to Cork it might have been different.

“The crash had rattled him,” she said.

Acting Bradford coroner Professor Paul Marks recorded a verdict that Mr Lee killed himself.

Mr Lee had flown twice a day on the Belfast-Cork route before he left Manx2. The fatal flight was piloted by his former colleague Jordi Lopez.

Mr Lee's 55-year-old father David said after the inquest: “It's been a terrible loss for myself as a father, for Harriet as a sister, for his family, friends and colleagues.”

He said being a pilot was all his son had ever wanted to do, perhaps surprisingly considering he had been involved in a plane crash at Leeds Bradford Airport in 1985 when the TriStar plane he was on overran the runway.

“When he was six we had to drag him across the runway to get on another plane again. But after that he loved flying and that was all he ever wanted to do.”

Background

Six people were killed when the Belfast to Cork flight crashed in heavy fog on February 10 this year. The small Manx2 aircraft had 12 people on board — its captain and co-pilot and 10 passengers — when it took off from George Best Belfast City Airport at 7.50am. The pilot was faced with dense fog on arrival at Cork Airport and aborted two attempts to land. It was on his third attempt that the right wing tip of the aircraft clipped the runway. The plane overturned, skidded for 200 metres and caught fire. The two crew were killed alongside four businessmen from Northern Ireland while six passengers escaped. An accident investigation is ongoing.

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