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LUCKY TO BE ALIVE; Survivors hear how close they came to death at Cork air crash inquest.

Byline: GEORGINA O'HALLORAN

SURVIVORS of the Manx2 air crash yesterday told how the inquest into the deaths of the six victims made them realise how lucky they are to be alive.

The jury at Cork County Coroner's Court returned verdicts of accidental death in all six cases.

They found the two crew and four passengers died from injuries sustained when the 20-seater aircraft crashed trying to land in dense fog.

An air accident expert yesterday told how 31-year-old pilot Jordi Sola Lopez put himself "under considerable pressure" to land in Cork when he could have diverted to Kerry.

Co-pilot Andrew Cantle, 27, was flying the plane while Mr Lopez was managing the power and making decisions.

Leo Murray, who led the investigation by the Air Accident Investigation Unit, told the inquest the management of the "power plant" of the plane was the key factor in the catastrophic loss of control on February 10, 2011. He said Mr Lopez, who had only been made commander five days earlier, found himself in a situation where he did not have the necessary tools to make prudent, correct decisions.

Mr Murray added: "He put himself under considerable pressure to land in Cork. That's why he made the third approach.

"He had an alternate [option]. A very short distance from Cork is Kerry Airport and the weather was good.

"He was thinking about diverting but it's unfortunate the visibility in Cork began to increase. That convinced him to make the third approach."

Mr Murray said the co-pilot would not have had the capacity to engage with the captain in the decision-making process.

Both pilots died alongside passengers Patrick Cullinan, 45, Richard Noble, 48, Joseph Michael Evans, 51, all from Belfast and 39-year-old Co Antrim businessman Brendan McAleese.

When attempting to land the plane, flying from Belfast International, suddenly rolled to the left and flying from Belfast International, suddenly rolled to the left and then to the right with a catastrophic loss of control and the right wing tip hit the ground, tipping it over.

Survivor Heather Elliott said: "This has really confirmed how lucky we have been to survive this tragedy and how well the emergency services and fire and rescue services did their job on the day."

Peter Cowley, from Glanmire, Co Cork, added: "I'm very fortunate. I can only thank family and friends for their support.

"My thoughts are always with the families that lost their loved ones. That's always in the back of my mind."

Mr Cowley told how he has been "reliving it the accident over and over again" and that meeting up with the other survivors was comforting.

Speaking on behalf of Mr Cantle's parents John and Ann, solicitor John Flynn said they were pleased their son had been exonerated by the evidence given at the inquest.

A visibly emotional John Cantle described his son as an outgoing young man who "lived for life" and said he had his son as an outgoing young man who "lived for life" and said he had wanted to be a pilot since he was 15. Solicitor James Healy-Pratt read a statement outside the court on behalf of the families of Mr Cullinan, Mr Noble and Mr McAleese.

He said: "This tragedy happened three years and four months ago but its effects on the families of those who died and of those who survived continues until this day.

"The f amilies are a ppreciative of the thorough investigation by Leo Murray and his team at the AAIU.

"The families firmly believe that it is essential for all 11 safety recommendations to be acted upon and that is something that was fully recognised by the coroner here today.

"Only then can our safety be improved as well as the prevention of future loss of innocent lives in air crashes."

Coroner Frank O'Connell added he hoped he would not have the opportunity or the duty to read six verdicts like that again in his career.

news@irishmirror.ie

CAPTION(S):

SHARED HORROR Heather Elliott and fellow survivor Mark Dickens at Cork inquest yesterday

SUPPORT Helen and Peter Cowley holding hands as they face the media

WRECKAGE Interior of plane

TRAGEDY Scene after crash

DESTRUCTION Aircraft left in pieces
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2014
Words:702
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