Hundreds of mourners gather to pay tribute to trainee pilot killed in crash


Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of trainee pilot Damien Martin Deegan in Co Offaly yesterday afternoon.

The aspiring pilot, from Crinkle outside Birr, was tragically killed when his small aircraft crashed near his local airfield in Birr on Sunday.

The Roscrea road from Birr was brought to a standstill as people lined the streets as the 31-year-old’s remains were brought from his sister’s home in Crinkle to St Brendan’s Church.

Mr Deegan was given a guard of honour by Crinkle Handball Club and a second by staff at Tesco, where he worked.

Fr Michael Reddin said it was “a great tribute to see such huge crowds sharing such solidarity with the Deegan family”. He welcomed members of the Doherty family as they prepared to bury flight instructor Niall Doherty.

“The tragic and sudden death of Damien Martin Deegan has caused a great darkness to descend on Crinkle, on our parish and on the greater community, but above all the greatest darkness has fallen on the Deegan family,” Fr Reddin told the congregation.

Instead of focusing on an air crash, Fr Reddin asked the gathering to look at Mr Deegan’s life.

“Thirty-one years full of life and activity, GAA, handball, fundraising. He was growing a beard to raise funds for cancer, fully involved with his community, a caring and loving young man.”

In his native Crinkle village, his friend Kevin Cooke said, Mr Deegan’s death had left a “void in the village that cannot be filled.”

Mr Deegan’s charitable nature, his kind actions and his willingness to help others will never be forgotten, he said. “Your smiling legend will always live on,” Mr Cooke remarked.

David Corboy remembered Mr Deegan’s love of flying and hurling. “He loved flying – he was a huge asset to us. He will be missed sorely,” he said.

Among the gifts presented during the funeral Mass were hurleys, air wings, a handball glove and ball, a model aircraft, a licence and logbook, a parachute and Mr Deegan’s Tesco badge.

Mr Deegan had been pursing his passion for flying when he met his tragic end along with flight instructor Mr Doherty, a Tipperary native, last Sunday.

The two men – both members of the Ormand Flying Club – were on a training flight in two-seater Cessna 150H aircraft near Birr Airfield when they got into difficulty and crashed at Clonkelly Upper, Birr.

Damien Deegan is survived by his parents Michael and Brenda, brother Diarmuid and sisters Davnet, Áine and Mhuire. He was laid to rest at Clonoghill Cemetery after the funeral Mass.

Mr Doherty is to be buried at Dunkerrin New Cemetery following midday funeral Mass at Dunkerrin Church in Co Offaly today.