Fatal Mayo plane crash pilot was unconscious before impact, report finds

Pilot’s head seen slumped forward in video recording recovered from aircraft

The pilot, Michael McCarrick, was killed instantly when the small plane crashed into a field at Breaffy, on the Bonninconlon side of Ballina, Co Mayo. File photograph: Google Street View

The pilot, Michael McCarrick, was killed instantly when the small plane crashed into a field at Breaffy, on the Bonninconlon side of Ballina, Co Mayo. File photograph: Google Street View

 

A 58-year-old pilot who died after his two-seater plane crashed in Ballina last year became unconscious mid-air, causing the plane to nosedive, an Air Accident Investigation has found.

The pilot and sole occupant of the aircraft was Michael McCarrick, an ESB employee who lived at Belleek.

A video recording from inside the plane recovered by investigators showed the pilot’s head “slump forward and his eyes appeared to be closed in a manner that suggested incapacitation due to a state of unconsciousness”, the report said.

The last point of the recording showed the plane take a nosedive to the left, thirty seconds before it crashed.

The pilot died instantly when the small plane crashed into a field at Breaffy, on the Bonninconlon side of Ballina, Co Mayo.

The plane was at an almost vertical angle to the ground at the point of impact, and the report concluded the crash was “not survivable.”

The aircraft took off from Lough Conn airfield at 4.38pm on May 4th, 2018, and crashed 35 minutes later following a short flight around the local area. The plane was returning to the airfield when the crash took place.

The aircraft was travelling at more than 225km/h, the air accident report said.

The investigation found there was no evidence carbon monoxide poisoning had caused the pilot to lose consciousness mid-flight, and the pilot was alive when the plane crashed.

No reason found

The autopsy report, provided to investigators, noted the “medical cause of death is related to his extreme traumatic injuries.”

The autopsy report said a “postmortem examination revealed no evidences of the reason of the loss of consciousness.”

The air accident report said all evidence showed the aircraft had been well maintained, and was kept in a hangar when not in use. The pilot had logged 245 hours of flying experience, and the plane was built in 2010.

Three witnesses were interviewed as part of the investigators report. One witness was related to the pilot, and Mr McCarrick had told the relative he would be flying near to their house the day beforehand.

On the day of the flight, the witness heard an aircraft flying nearby, and upon walking outside saw it was Mr McCarrick’s plane. The witness phoned the pilot and had a brief conversation with him, which took place around twenty minutes before the crash.

The relative told investigators the pilot was speaking normally, and “did not sound as if he was out of breath or under any stress”. The witness reported the aircraft’s engine also sounded normal.

Medical records showed the pilot was taking prescription medication to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and his GP was aware of his flying activities.

“The medical records submitted do not indicate that the pilot was exhibiting any adverse effects from the medication, and he had passed all medical checks since commencement of the medication,” the air accident report said.