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Newtownards plane crash: School principal’s tribute to ‘warm, friendly and caring’ Caroline Mawhinney

Accident victim was to start as teacher at New-Bridge Integrated College in Banbridge


Caroline Mawhinney

Caroline Mawhinney

Caroline Mawhinney

The principal of the school where plane crash victim Caroline Mawhinney was due to start a new career as a teacher has told of the “great sense of loss”.

Ms Mawhinney died alongside Philip Murdock when a light aircraft came down near Newtownards Airport shortly after 8.20pm on Tuesday evening.

Relatives described her as a “loving, kind and caring mother”.

Ms Mawhinney (44), who lived outside Newtownards, worked for 20 years as a mechanical engineer for Caterpillar.

She had recently changed career direction after graduating with a PGCE and was to start a new job as a technology teacher at New-Bridge Integrated College in Banbridge.

Its principal Anne Anderson said the school community was greatly saddened” to learn of her death.

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She said: "As a school we were all looking forward to Caroline joining our teaching staff in September as a technology teacher - her previous experience as an engineer and her natural ability to connect with young people were destined to make such a positive contribution to our technology department and wider school community.

“As Caroline had attended a number of days in New-Bridge in May and June, she came across as a warm, friendly and caring person who demonstrated great enthusiasm and excitement about beginning her teaching career at New-Bridge.

“In the short time we knew her, she made such a lasting print on our hearts and we feel a great sense of loss as a school community.”

Ms Mawhinney was described by her family as “the most loving, kind and caring mother to Josh (15) and Emily (11)”.

She was also the “daughter of John and the late Heather and sister to Kelly”.

A qualified pilot, she “loved spending time at the Ulster Flying Club” and had completed her first solo flight with the club back in 2019.

“Caroline was always smiling, energetic and really lived life to the full,” added her family’s statement. “She was so loved by all of her family and friends.”

Funeral details for Ms Mawhinney are still to be confirmed.

A funeral notice for Mr Murdock stated that he passed away suddenly “into the presence of his Lord and Saviour”.

It added that he was the "much loved husband of Esther, beloved son of Bertie and Wilma and loving son-in-law of Jean and the late Eddie Deyermond. Dear brother of Paul and Elaine, brother-in-law of Helen and Jonny and also Lois and David and devoted uncle to his nephews and nieces.”

A service will be held in Ballymagarrick Gospel Hall in Carryduff at 2.30pm on Monday. Burial will take place at Holy Trinity Parish Churchyard in Ballylesson.

“Philip will be sorely missed by his wife, parents and family circle,” the notice states.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46 v 1.”

Mr Murdock has been described as “kind, fun and loving” by his niece Bethany Wade, whom he flew to Scotland two days before his death.

The Hillsborough businessman was the managing director of the Craigavon-based company Envision Intelligent Solutions, which he founded 11 years ago.

On Sunday evening, he flew Bethany from Newtownards to Prestwick, completing the trip in 22 minutes and writing online that he had been “delighted” to do so.

“Phil will be so missed by all the family,” Bethany told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Personally speaking, I can say that not only was he the most kind, fun and loving uncle, but also a mentor who taught me so much. He tackled everything with enthusiasm. Most importantly, we are so thankful he trusted in the Lord Jesus and we take great comfort knowing we will meet again.”

Eyewitnesses to the crash said Mr Murdock had been trying to steer the aircraft away from people on the ground, with one man hailing the pilot as a “hero”.

Independent councillor Steven Irvine said his local football team was playing at Londonderry Park at the time.

“They saw the airplane turning on its side. In hindsight, it was maybe in distress and was trying to avoid more casualties. Fair play to the pilot, if that’s the case,” he added.

“That park is very busy with dog walkers, sports and children in the play park. There were two soccer matches on at the time. It would have been relatively busy.

“I’d just like to pass on my deepest condolences to both families of the victims and their wider circles. God bless them.”

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the Civil Aviation Authority has launched an investigation into the fatal collision, alongside specialist officers from the PSNI.

The Ulster Flying Club said: “On behalf of the chairman, directors, members and staff of the club, it is with great sadness and regret that we must share the tragic news that two of our members lost their lives in the aircraft crash that took place at our airfield in Newtownards.”

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