Engine failure did not cause crash which killed pilot (47) and passenger (7)

Pair died after plane crashed in Co Offaly bog in May last year

A photograph showing Niall Bowditch and Kasper Kacprzak from a GoFundMe page set up for their families

A photograph showing Niall Bowditch and Kasper Kacprzak from a GoFundMe page set up for their families

 

An investigation into a plane crash in Co Offaly last year in which two people died has found no evidence of engine failure.

Niall Bowditch (47) and Kasper Kacprzak (7) died when the Cessna 208B they were travelling in crashed into a boggy area shortly after 16 skydivers had exited the plane.

The pilot was returning to the Irish Parachute Club’s airfield in Clonbullogue near Edenderry in Co Offaly when the accident happened on May 13th, 2018.

The plane, which came from the UK, had been in constant use at the airfield during weekends from April 21st until the crash.

The impact was so great that the entire front section of the aircraft, forward of the main wheels, was below the surface of the peat bog, a length of almost five metres. The remains of the plane had to be dug out with a mechanical digger. The wings were fully detached from the wings root.

It took the emergency services several hours to recover the bodies of the two victims from the plane before they were taken to the Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore.

The plane’s wreckage was examined by the aircraft manufacturer under the supervision of the Air Accident Investigation Unit investigator-in-charge.

Mr Bowditch was from the UK and an experienced pilot.*

In its interim report into the accident - the preliminary one was published a month after the crash - the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) stated that the engine was still producing power when the plane hit the ground.

Analysis

There was no evidence, the investigator concluded, of “pre-impact anomalies” in the engine.

This was confirmed by an analysis of the propeller carried out in the United States which found that the “propeller blade bending, twisting, paint scuffing, leading edge impacts, and overall propeller assembly damage is typical of that associated with mid-level rotational energy absorption (rotation with likely some engine power) at impact”.

The investigators also managed to recover the aircraft data acquisition system or black box which was damaged but intact.

Its information was successfully downloaded 10 days after the crash happened and it contained information recorded over a period of 29 minutes, the duration of the flight.

It found that the aircraft’s rate of descent increased rapidly in the final few seconds and that the engine was providing power to the propeller until the end of the data recording.

An attempt to recover data from the pilot’s mobile phone, which was recovered from the accident site, proved to be unsuccessful as it was too badly damaged.

The investigators also examined footage from the skydivers’ cameras which showed the aircraft descend rapidly behind a line of trees.

They discovered that the boy who died had been on a similar flight at an earlier stage.

The final AAIU investigation report will in due course review the legislation, guidance material and policies related to the carriage of passengers on board aircraft being used for parachute operations. The final report will also aim to ascertain the cause of the crash.

* Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kasper Kacprzak's father had skydived out of the plane minutes before it crashed.