Northern Ireland news

MP: Close-knit flying community will 'gather round and support each other' following plane crash

The scene of the plane crash on Thursday, which claimed the lives of two people onboard. Picture by Justin Kernoghan/ Photopress
Suzanne McGonagle and PA

THE close-knit flying community will "gather round and support each other" following the deaths of two people in a light aircraft crash in Co Antrim, an MP has said.

Crash investigators were yesterday continuing their examinations of the scene near Nutts Corner, a day after the plane came down and caught fire, claiming the lives of the two people onboard.

It is understood the aircraft, believed to be a Cessna 152, had taken off from Newtownards airfield and was on a round trip when the tragedy happened at around 12.20pm on Thursday.

It has been reported that one of those onboard was an experienced pilot, while the other person was an aerial photographer. It is understood the pilot occasionally rented the small aircraft from the Ulster Flying Club (UFC).

While police had last night still not released the names, ages or sexes of those killed, Strangford MP, Jim Shannon, said they were both members of the Ulster Flying Club, based at the Newtownards airfield.

"They were very much involved in (aviation) and experienced pilots, there is no doubt that is the case, whatever the reason for the accident," he said.

He said the investigation would be thorough.

"The focus has to be on the families - there are two empty chairs, their families are grieving, and we need to focus on how we support the families.

"The flying club is a very strong fraternity, they are a family and they will gather round and support each other."

Ards Flying Club yesterday said it was not able to comment and directed all media enquiries to the police.

Investigators remained at the scene of the tragedy throughout yesterday as they continued to examine the circumstances of the crash.

The plane ended up on a grassy area in the middle of a wood.

Police said the crash site would be cordoned off for "some time" to maintain "the integrity of the scene" for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

The wreckage of the plan is due to be removed from the scene over the weekend and taken to a facility in England for further examination.

Paramedics, firefighters and an air ambulance helicopter attended the site between Nutts Corner and Loanends after the plane caught fire at around 12.20pm.

The NI Ambulance Service (NIAS) put major incident protocols into action, but the incident was stood down at 12.49pm.

It added that no patients were taken from the scene.

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