Aircraft crashes on third attempt to land in fog

Fri, Feb 11, 2011, 00:00

AN INVESTIGATION has been launched by the Irish Aviation Authority into the crash in which six people were killed and six others were injured when a Manx2 airline aircraft overturned while attempting to land at Cork Airport. The 19-seater Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner, which was being leased to Manx2.com, was on a scheduled flight from Belfast City Airport to Cork when it crashed and its two crew and four passengers were killed.

The pilot was last night named as Jordi Lopez, a Spanish national, and the co-pilot was English national Andrew Cantle. The four passengers who died were Richard Noble from Yorkshire; Pat Cullinan, from Belfast; Capt Michael Evans, from Belfast; and Brendan McAleese, from Tanaghmore, Co Antrim.

The injured included Peter Cowley from Glanmire, Co Cork; Donal Walsh from Waterford city; Heather Elliot from Belfast; Brendan Mallon, from Bangor, Co Down; Laurence Wilson, from Larne; and Mark Dickens, from Watford, England.

It is understood heavy fog had shrouded the runway as the aircraft approached Cork Airport, and the pilot twice attempted to land the aircraft, first approaching from the north to try and land on runway R17 and then approaching from the south, attempting to land on runway R35.

The pilot then approached from the north again, attempting to land but appeared to have missed the runway, and the aircraft flipped over on its back, with the nose of the aircraft taking the brunt of the impact before a fire broke out in one of the engines.

The alarm was raised immediately after the control tower failed to raise the aircraft on radio, and firefighters from the airport raced to the scene and managed to extinguish the blaze in the engine within minutes before it could spread to the cabin area.

All six deceased were pronounced dead at the scene, and the six injured were brought by HSE ambulances to Cork University Hospital, where four were last night described as being in a serious condition, with a further two being described as comfortable.

According to Supt Charlie Barry, of Togher Garda station, two of the survivors were able to walk from the scene while the four others, who were all conscious, were stretchered from the aircraft, with one having to be freed by firefighters using cutting equipment.

Cork Airport manager Pat Keohane said that while there was a heavy fog around Cork Airport yesterday morning, it was a matter for the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) air accident investigation team to determine whether it was a contributory factor to the crash.

The IAA air accident investigation team, who arrived at the airport yesterday afternoon, are also expected to examine the aircraft’s black box recorder, as well as the servicing log of the turboprop aircraft, which came into service in 1992.

The aircraft came to land just off the R17 runway in front of the new Cork Airport terminal building, but the fog was so thick at the time that it was not visible to people in the terminal until fog began to clear.

A major emergency plan was activated by Cork County Council, the HSE, and gardaí involving more than 100 personnel, and included the establishment by gardaí of a Casualty Bureau Helpline on 021-4328820.

Assistant State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster last night began postmortem examinations on three of the deceased, and it is expected she will complete postmortem examinations on the remaining three victims later today.

It is understood that none of the deceased suffered serious burn injuries but are believed to have died from shock, haemorrhage, and trauma upon impact, while several of the injured suffered multiple fractures and lacerations.

Manx2.com last night issued a statement confirming it would continue to work with the relative authorities to establish what exactly caused the crash.

“Our first priority must be to help the families of those who lost their lives and those who are seriously injured,” the company said.