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Victims in Cork air crash suffered head, chest and abdominal injuries on impact

Inquest into 2011 tragedy in which six people died hears survivors tell how they felt “suffocated” and “terrified”.

Updated 9.29pm

File Photo The inquest into the deaths of six people in a plane crash at Cork Airport three years ago has opened. The wreckage of the Manx2 plane being lifted from Cork airport in March 2011. Six people died in the crash, including the two pilots. Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

AN INQUEST into the deaths of six people in an air crash at Cork Airport in 2011, today heard details of injuries sustained by the victims as well as statements from those who survived the tragedy.

Assistant State pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster told the inquest in Cork that the two pilots and four passengers killed in the Manx2 crash suffered a combination of head, chest and abdominal injuries on impact.

She said they either died instantly at the moment of impact or were immediately knocked unconscious and passed away within moments of the crash.

Poor decisions

The Fairchild Metro EC-ITP aircraft crashed, overturned and caught fire on its third attempt to land at Cork Airport on February 10, 2011. An Air Accident Investigation Unit report published last January, found that poor decisions by the air crew combined with lack of oversight of the airline operators were contributing factors in the disaster.

Leo Murray of the Air Accident Investigation Unit today told the coroner that the plane’s recordings suggested that the pilots put the plane’s propellers below “flight idle” engine speed as the aircraft attempted its third and final attempt to land moments before the crash. He noted that this action is prohibited whilst in flight by the craft’s manufacturers.

He said that this, combined with the fact that there appeared to be an “uncoordinated operation of the plane’s controls,” led to the loss of control.

Murray explained that his investigation of the crash led him to believe that Spanish pilot Jordi Sola Lopez (31), was in charge of the plane’s engine power and that co-pilot Andrew Cantle (27), from Sunderland in England, was handling the aircraft’s aerodynamic controls. Murray commented that Cantle would have been at a “severe disadvantage” in handling the craft as he would have been unaware of Lopez’s operations of the engine power.

He added that the decision to land in thick fog, instead of diverting to another airport, would have been taken solely by the pilot in charge who had taken his first flight as commander just four days before the crash.

Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

‘I was terrified we’d survive the crash, only to be burned alive’

This morning, survivors, their families and families of the deceased were in the public gallery at Cork Coroner’s Court.

One survivor said she feared she would be burned alive in the wreckage before emergency services would reach her.

In her statement, Heather Elliot told the court how in the moments after the crash, she held hands and prayed with another passenger as they were trapped in the wreckage, which had caught fire. Emergency services arrived moments later and pulled her by the legs clear of the plane.

She said:

I was so terrified that we had survived the crash only to be burned alive.

Another survivor, Donal Walsh, said that he put his head beneath his knees in a recovery position as the plane attempted its third landing.

Laurence Wilson, a regular passenger on the Belfast to Cork flight, recounted how he felt “suffocated” as mud and water poured into the cabin after the impact, and that he could hear a woman’s screams.

He said he feared the plane was moving too fast and was not level as it attempted its third landing.

Peter Cowley, who was sitting just two rows behind the pilot, paid tribute to the gardai and fire services who attended the scene, and said that his thoughts were with the families deceased.

He said his last memory of the flight was texting his mother to say he thought the flight may be diverted. He woke up in hospital two days later.

In his statement Mark Dickens said that once the plane went through the fog on the third landing attempt he could see the runway just 30 feet away, and that he knew that they were travelling too fast.

He said he screamed ‘We’re going to crash,’ just before impact.

Superintendent Charlie Barry of Togher Garda Station told Coroner Frank O’Connell that visibility at Cork Airport was “severely restricted” by thick fog on the morning of the crash and that the location of the wreckage was initially unknown due to the weather conditions.

A total of 171 emergency and 21 airport personnel were involved in the rescue, he said.

The coroner’s court also heard statements from the first gardai on the scene, who erected a tent to house a makeshift morgue on the runway as bodies were removed from the wreckage.

The inquest continues tomorrow morning, when air accident investigator Murray will continue giving evidence.

First published 3.51pm

Related: Six confirmed dead after plane flips over on landing in Cork>

Timeline: Cork airport crash>

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