The deaths of six passengers and crew aboard a Manx2 flight which crashed at Cork Airport 10 years ago yesterday was remembered with a simple ceremony at the airport, where staff observed a minute's silence and the Tricolour was flown at half mast.
Spanish pilot, Jordi Sola Lopez (31) from Manresa in Spain, and co-pilot Andrew Cantle (27) from Sunderland, both perished in the crash, as did four of their 10 passengers aboard the early morning flight from George Best Airport in Belfast to Cork on February 10th, 2011.
Among the passengers who died were businessman Richard Noble (48), from Belfast; accountant Patrick Cullinan (45), originally from Tyrone but living in Belfast; businessman Brendan McAleese (39), from Antrim and harbour master, Michael Evans (51), from Belfast.
Yesterday, Cork Airport marked the 10th anniversary of the tragedy – the worst at the airport in its 60-year history – with a simple ceremony where the Tricolour was flown at half mast at the fire station and a minute's silence was observed at 9.50am, the exact time of the crash.
Cork Airport Communications manager Kevin Cullinane said that while many airport staff are currently working from home because of Covid-19, those who were at the airport this morning marked the anniversary by observing the minute's silence.
“Obviously those who could congregate in the terminal at 9.50am did so in a socially distant way, three metres apart to observe the minute’s silence and others did so from their own areas and some colleagues observed it privately, working from home,” he said.
“We have our own internal communications which goes out on a Wednesday and the names of the six people who lost their lives were included in that so we remembered them and the six people who were saved due to the heroic actions of our colleagues in the airport police and fire service.”
More than three years later in 2014, a jury of six men and one woman at South Cork Coroner's Court returned verdicts of accidental death in the case of the six who died when the 18 seater Fairchild SA227-BC Metro crashed on the runway at Cork Airport.
The jury sitting at the inquest at the Washington Street Courthouse in Cork, returned similar verdicts for all six victims, finding that they died as result of multiple injuries sustained in airplane crash while the plane was attempting to land at Cork Airport in heavy fog.
The jury had heard evidence from some 15 witnesses over two days including Leo Murray of the Air Accident Investigation Unit who led the AAIU investigation and gave a detailed outline of what investigators believed caused the fatal crash at 9.50am on runway 17.
Mr Murray said the accident was the result of a catastrophic loss of control of the aircraft at a low height from which recovery was not possible when the plane continued with its third approach despite not having the required visibility.
The loss of control resulted from the retardation of the power levers controlling the engines and propellers to below the flight idle setting which was prohibited while the aircraft was in flight as it could result in excessive airspeed deceleration, he said.
This in turn could lead to an uncontrollable roll rate due to asymmetric thrust and drag from the engines and in this case resulted in the aircraft first rolling 40 degrees to the left and then 90 degrees to the right before its wing tip hit the ground and it inverted, he said.
The inquest had earlier heard evidence from Mr Murray that co-pilot, Andrew Cantle had been manually flying the airplane from Belfast to Cork where he made two approaches to land but had to abort on each occasion at heights of 101 feet and 91 feet due to thick fog.
Mr Cantle was still at the flying controls on the third approach but it appeared from cockpit recordings that Capt Lopez took over the engine controls on this approach, said Mr Murray who declined to speculate why Capt Lopez moved the power levers to below flight idle.
After the jury returned their verdicts, Coroner for Cork South Frank O’Connell extended his sympathies to the families of the deceased and said he hoped he would never again find himself having to perform the same duty of reading out six verdicts one after another in his role as coroner.
Mr O’Connell also extended his best wishes to six survivors of the crash and thanked them for coming to the inquest and reliving what was a very unfortunate and life-changing experience in order to establish what exactly had happened in Cork Airport that day.