Friday 28 October 2016

Heartbroken family pay tribute to 'loving son' who dreamed of being a pilot

Pilot Damien Horan
Pilot Damien Horan

The grieving family of an Irish pilot who died in a plane crash in Hawaii have said he was "ambitious" and "full of life".

Damien Horan (30), from Tullamore, Co Offaly, was killed when the single-engined light aircraft he was flying crashed on Monday.

His family last night paid tribute to a "loving son and caring brother".

"Although Damien's life ended so soon he lived life to the fullest," they said.

It is understood Damien was flying a group of skydivers when difficulties arose shortly after take-off.

Four of those on board were killed at the scene, while a fifth person died in hospital.

Witnesses said the Cessna 182H had just taken off when the engine failed.

One said he watched it "fall out of the sky" and burst into flames.

Damien's devastated parents, Teresa and Dermot, sisters Ciara and Briana and future brother-in-law Bobby Winder paid tribute to him last night.

The family said he "cared so deeply" for his siblings and friends and was "very close" to his family.

His love of flying dated from when he was a little boy.

"From the young age of five his dream was to become a pilot," said Ciara, speaking on behalf of the family.

"He never strayed from his dream.

"During his Leaving Certificate year, his classmates were asked where they saw themselves in 10 years' time, to which his reply was 'to travel the world and be a pilot'."

Damien pursued his interest in aviation and graduated from the University of Limerick with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

Ten years after his graduation, he had attained both his private and commercial pilot's licences.

He travelled extensively, including in the US, Asia and Dubai.

However, his love of Australia kept him there for six years, working with farmer Brad Jones in Tammin, 180km east of Perth.

The Horan family said Damien formed a close bond with Mr Jones, who he worked with for four years.

"He was part of the Jones family and he is sadly missed by the Tammin community. Brad Jones was instrumental in encouraging his dreams," said Ciara.

"Damien had a wonderful work ethic which was instilled in him by his father and he worked in the family business from an early age.

"Although Damien's life ended so soon, he lived it to the fullest."

Damien's parents said they "couldn't be prouder" of their son for "following his dreams, reaching his goals and for the loving young man that he became".

The family added: "Damien was ambitious, determined and full of life and seemed to have the gift of always knowing a friend when meeting new faces all over the world.

"We had no idea just how many lives he had touched until a continuous flow of stories and memories were recently shared.

"This has greatly added to our comfort at this time.

"To take a quote that one of his dear friends shared with us from the life of an extreme sports enthusiast, 'the only regret he had at the end was to die, because he truly knew what is was to live'."


Damien's extended family and friends in the United States - he was a US citizen - are in "great shock" following his death.

The family last night said funeral arrangements are still being made.

An investigation into the accident is continuing and is expected to take several weeks.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are examining the wreckage of the plane.

Retired Air Force mechanic Cisco Campos said he was fishing on Monday morning when he saw the Skydive Kauai plane take off and noticed that the engine sounded strange.

In an interview with Hawaii New Now, he said it was only about "a flag pole's height off the ground" when the engine appeared to stutter and then cut out.

Mr Campos said the plane looked to be turning back to the airport when the engine burst into flames.

He said it "fell out of the sky," and exploded on impact with the runway.

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