Plane was ‘flying like torpedo’ before crash that killed pilot and boy (7), inquest hears

Jury finds deaths of Niall Bowditch and passenger Kacper Kacprzak were accidental

A pilot and his seven-year-old passenger died from massive trauma as the result of an air accident in Co Offaly two years ago, an inquest has heard.

A verdict of accidental death due to massive generalised trauma was the decision of the jury at the inquest in Tullamore on Friday into the deaths of pilot Niall Bowditch and Kacper Kacprzak at Clonbullogue, Co Offaly, on May 13th, 2018.

The inquest heard that both victims of the accident suffered severe head trauma and multiple fractures to their upper and lower limbs.

Their airplane was discovered embedded in a bog near Walsh Island after it crashed while returning from a parachute jump. It had "virtually nose-dived into the ground" and had been "flying vertically like a torpedo", according to witness Jimmy Slattery, who saw the plane "fly straight into the trees" while out with his dog."There was no smoke, no fire, no explosion, just silence."


Coroner Raymond Mahon told the inquest that questions about responsibility for operating the flight and the legality of carrying passengers were "another matter entirely" and the inquest was not the appropriate forum for such a discussion.

Kevin Brerton, a senior pilot with the Irish Parachute Club, told the inquest he had been on duty for air traffic control. The pilot had been cleared to land in their last communication, but when there was no subsequent response Mr Brerton became concerned. He went up in another plane and spotted the wreckage "deep in the forest".

Mr Brerton said he had not been aware that there was a boy on board.

Coast Guard help

Fire officer Gabriel Conlon described how the Coast Guard helicopter hovered over the site to guide a search party to the wreckage. The plane was embedded in the bog so trees had to be cut back to allow a digger on site to dig around the plane.

Eventually the cockpit was found at a depth of 10ft, he said. Both bodies were found in their seats, face down.

The cockpit was lifted out and both bodies had to be cut from the wreckage, with the remains being brought to Tullamore hospital.

Garda Sgt John Doran said both bodies were identified through DNA evidence.

Pathologist Dr Nurul Nor, who performed the autopsies, told the inquest that the pilot Mr Bowditch had suffered such severe head trauma that his head was almost decapitated. The toxicology report for the pilot was negative for drugs and alcohol.

His death was due to massive trauma as a result of an air accident.

Kacper’s parents left the inquest while Dr Nor described the boy’s injuries. Death was due to massive trauma, especially to the head, he said. He said death would have been instantaneous.

Coroner Mr Mahon said that a day of enjoyment had been shattered with awful consequences. There was no evidence that Mr Bowditch had deliberately done anything to cause the accident, he said. What had happened had been “totally accidental”, he added.