Rescuers discover bodies of pilot pals in plane wreckage at a remote Co Kildare field
Two friends have been found dead after an horrific incident in which their small plane crashed into a remote field.
An investigation is under way into the fatal crash near Athy, Co Kildare, on Thursday evening which claimed the lives of James Price (70) and Aidan Rowsome (58).
The two men, who were both pilots, were the only passengers on board the single engine BRM NG5 aircraft when it failed to return to Kilrush airfield.
The aircraft had taken off from the runway at around 7pm, and was due to land at the same airfield later that evening.
However, the families of both men became concerned when they failed to return home.
Gardai were alerted at around 1am yesterday morning and a major emergency response was launched involving the Marine Coordination Centre, the Irish Coast Guard and Air Traffic Control (ATC).
A location for the plane's last known position was identified by ATC controllers, who recorded the aircraft as being near the Belan area of Athy, Kildare at around 7.20pm on Thursday evening.
A ground search involving gardai was carried out while the Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 116, was also dispatched.
The airplane's wreckage was discovered at around 4.30am, along with the two deceased.
Rescuers said there was no debris at the scene or any immediate indication as to why the craft might have crashed.
"It looked like the craft just literally dropped out of the sky, like a stone", one said.
Airplane enthusiast Mr Price, from Balinteer in Co Dublin and Mr Rowsome, from Kildare town, were pronounced dead at the scene.
A senior source said that it was too early to speculate on the cause of the crash and that a lengthy investigation would be conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU).
It is understood that so far no witnesses have come forward and investigators may have to rely primarily on the wreckage itself to establish the cause of the fatal crash.
The aircraft, a single engine BRM NG5, has been described as a "very new and very modern" aircraft.
Kildare Superintendent Martin Walker said that the bodies of both men have since been moved to Naas General Hospital where post-mortems would be carried out.