Belfast Telegraph

Fatal air crash inquiry under way

Air accident investigators are to examine whether a flight instructor and trainee pilot killed in a light aircraft crash were alerted to a problem shortly after take-off.

Niall Doherty, in his 30s, and advanced learner Damien Deegan, in his 20s, were killed when the plane came down in scrubland a short distance from Birr airfield in Co Offaly.

The wreckage of the Cessna 150H ended upside down in an overgrown field with the wheels in the air. Officials from the Department of Transport Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) have begun an inquiry to establish what caused the crash which happened as darkness fell late on Sunday afternoon.

It is understood the men may have been alerted by warning lights in the cockpit shortly after taking off from an airstrip less than two miles from the crash site. Air traffic control at Shannon raised the alarm when the Cessna fell off radar screens shortly before 5pm on Sunday.

An Air Corps helicopter may have to be brought in to lift the mangled wreckage from the field.

Mr Deegan, from the nearby village of Crinkle, was a trainee, but it is understood he was well advanced in his training, with a high number of hours under his belt. He was believed to have been at an advanced level in his training and on course to getting a commercial pilot's licence.

Mr Doherty, from Roscrea, Co Tipperary, was the instructor. Both men were members of the local Ormand Flying Club, based in Birr, a small, tight-knit club with up to 30 members.

Several sympathy messages have been posted on the Ormand club's Facebook page. David Smyth, senior flight instructor at Flightwise training and charter agency, said: "Our sincere condolences to both families and all the members of Ormand Flying Club from all at Flightwise in Weston airport. A tragic loss to aviation. May they rest in peace."

Skydive Ireland wrote: "So, so sad. Two of the best lads you could meet who absolutely loved flying. You'll both be very missed at Birr. Thoughts and prayers for both families."

Aerobatics instructor Gerry Humphreys added: "Tragic news, such a beautiful Remembrance Sunday for flying, our sincere sympathies to everyone in the Ormand Flying Club from your many friends in Coonagh."

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