Crashed aircraft passengers avoided ‘catastrophic injuries’ thanks to action of pilot – councillor

Four people taken to hospital after light plane crash lands on Wexford beach

The scene of a light plane crash, Carnsore Point, Co Wexford. Photograph: Mary Browne

The scene of a light plane crash, Carnsore Point, Co Wexford. Photograph: Mary Browne

 

The passengers on a light aircraft that crash landed on a Wexford beach on Thursday avoided “catastrophic injuries” thanks to the actions of the pilot, a local councillor has suggested.

Independent councillor Ger Carthy, who is an advanced paramedic with the National Ambulance Service, said he was one of the first people to arrive on the scene just west of Carnsore Point.

“When I got down there, the plane was nosed into the sea. The four occupants were in their survival gear, they had been doing surveys for UCC in relation to, I think dolphins and whales. The occupants had a number of injuries,” Mr Carthy said.

“Just shortly after me arriving, Rescue 117 from Waterford landed. They provided medical assistance along with myself. The Irish Coast Guard arrived, the fire service, the gardaí and the local community were very supportive, helping carrying equipment to the scene.

“I think only for the actions of the pilot we could have been looking at fatalities here. He was able to crash it in a way, in against the shoreline. If it had have been a hard landing, I think there could have been catastrophic injuries.”

Four people were taken to hospital after the light aircraft crash-landed on Thursday evening.

The passengers, who were suspected of suffering head and spinal injuries, were taken to hospital from the scene.

Gardaí said those on board were two men aged in their 20s and 50s and two women in their 30s. Their injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Jurgen White, chief inspector with the Air Accident Investigation Unit, said the investigation will be centred around talking to the pilot and passengers and examining the aircraft before determining the cause of the incident.

“We had a team down here yesterday evening, they arrived around 8pm. They, through the night, recovered the wreckage from the beach. The tide was trying to bring the aircraft out so they recovered it from the beach up onto a hard standing and the site was secured for the night by An Garda Siochana,” he said.

“Then we had a team arrive again this morning at 8.30am with the investigator in charge, Kate Fitzgerald, taking control of the accident site. At the moment what we’re doing is dismantling the aircraft so that we can load it onto a recovery vehicle so that we can bring it back to our wreckage and examination facility in Gormanston, Co Meath.

“We’re also making inquiries obviously with locals with regards to eye witnesses and also at some stage today, pending the availability of the people who were on board the aircraft, we will conduct interviews if they’re well enough to talk to us.”

He said early indications are that the occupants of the aircraft were conducting a marine wildlife survey over the water.

“We have heard from other eyewitnesses and other aircraft had heard that he [the pilot] had said he had a technical problem and he was trying to land on the beach,” Mr White added.

“Obviously we will have to talk to the pilot to determine what the technical difficulty was to necessitate him having to do an emergency landing on the beach.

‘Top cover’

Philip Smythe, safety manager at the Atlantic Flight Training Academy said one of their senior instructors, Captain John Walton, provided “top cover” over the incident.

“He [Capt Walton] was on a training flight and he became aware of a Mayday call for the aircraft in distress. He went to the location and observed the aircraft on the beach. As he was first on scene, he remained in the air to provide top cover until the emergency services including the helicopters arrived,” Mr Smythe said.

“Top cover means keeping the view of the scene under observation, just to help locate or confirm the location of the incident itself and then to take any observations.

“Obviously they can’t give any assistance as they’re in the air but just to be able to monitor the situation and keep air traffic control updated as to what they see themselves.”

The Atlantic Flight Training Academy trains commercial airline pilots, with bases in Cork Airport and Waterford.

“We have a lot of training activity in the area there but it was not one of our aircraft. It was a French registered aircraft,” Mr Smythe added.

“It was great to hear there were no life-threatening injuries and judging by the landing performance by the pilot, it was obviously a very skillful handling on his part too.”