O'Rourke may institute judicial inquiry into 1953 Aer Lingus aircraft crash

 

The Minister for Public Enterprise will decide within a month whether to order a judicial inquiry into the 1953 crash of an Aer Lingus aircraft.

Ms O'Rourke is considering the appointment of a senior legal figure to the case in the light of new evidence suggesting the pilot of the DC3 was unjustly blamed for the accident after he crash-landed the aircraft in a field near Birmingham on New Year's Day, 1953. None of the 22 passengers travelling from Dublin was injured, but the plane was a write-off.

The daughters of the pilot, the late Capt T.J. Hanley, who died aged 85 in 1992, reiterated their calls for a new inquiry following the reopening of the Tuskar Rock case by the Minister for Public Enterprise, Ms O'Rourke, earlier this year.

Capt Hanley, was barred from flying after the accident. He emigrated and worked on the ground at Honolulu airport until his retirement.

The 11-day public inquiry held after the 1953 crash concluded that the primary cause of the accident was loss of power arising from fuel starvation and blamed pilot error. A re-examination of the case led to Capt Hanley's licence being restored in 1977, but his daughters want the original verdict overturned and his name cleared fully.

The family cites a 1959 crash-landing of another Aer Lingus aircraft, caused by fuel contamination - the theory used in Capt Hanley's defence. The family also points to a police report of an air accident in Liverpool in 1953 which referred to the problem of water collecting in fuel storage tanks.

Fine Gael's enterprise spokesman, Mr Jim Higgins, said the new evidence pointed to a "miscarriage of justice" and confirmed he would seek a new independent inquiry in the Dail on Thursday.