An aviation enthusiast who died following a light aircraft crash in Kilkenny on Friday night has been named locally.
Richard ‘Dick’ O’Connell, a married father of three, was fatally injured in the incident which happened at about 9pm at Gowran Cross - some 10km from Kilkenny city.
Mr O’Connell, a builder who is in his 50s, is understood to have been returning home to attend his daughter’s birthday party when the micro-light he was flying crash landed near his home. There was no-one else in the aircraft at the time.
Party goers and concerned locals rushed to the site of the crash, but despite efforts to save the pilot’s life he died a short time later. A postmortem was due to be carried out on his remains.
Gardaí from Thomastown and Kilkenny city attended the scene, along with fire units and several ambulances. A team from the Air Accident Investigation Unit visited the crash site in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Michael Prendergast, chairman of the local Clara GAA club, was a friend and neighbour of Mr O’Connell.
“I knew him all my life, since he was a child. He was a hard-working family man - a good family man,” said Mr Prendergast. “He took great pride in his work. That was one thing about him, he took great pride in every job he done.”
Mr Prendergast said Mr O’Connell had two daughters and a son - aged between 16 and 20. He built his own micro-light aircraft and flew them out of a field close to his home.
“He had a passion for aviation and the GAA,” said Mr Prendergast. “Work and looking after his family was his life. He was such a nice fella.
“Everyone is upset here. It is a sad day.”
Gardaí are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the crash or was at the scene afterwards to contact them at (056) 7775000.
Pat FitzPatrick, a local councillor, said the the “whole community is shocked and saddened” at the “tragic accident”.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family,” he said. “They are a well known family in the Clara and Gowran area and they have a wide circle of family and friends throughout Kilkenny.”