Monday 18 February 2019

Battle to save wreckage from being 'sucked under' in bog

Gardai at the scene and a bog train used to transport the wreckage
Gardai at the scene and a bog train used to transport the wreckage
Supt Tom Mullarkey at the scene in Offaly
A bog train used to transport the wreckage

The long and difficult task of recovering the wreckage was compounded by the terrain the plane crashed in.

Buried 12 to 15 feet into a wooded bogland, it was about as remote a location as the recovery crew have had to work in.

The area where the single engine Cessna 208B Grand Caravan went down is close to land worked on by Bord na Mona.

A single bog railway winds its way from the narrow roadway, and it was on this track that the emergency services, Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) and recovery vehicles had to travel.

The harrowing picture of the efforts to drag the crumpled wreckage out of the bog to get to the two people trapped inside was painted by one local man at the scene.

"The bog was sucking it under. That's what it does," he said.

Using a digger and chains, locals with access to heavy machinery spent six hours battling to retrieve the bodies.

"We got chains around the tail, but when we'd try to pull the plane out the chains would cut through it. I was surprised at how light the metal is on them," said the man.

"Then we'd try and anchor the chains somewhere else and try again. It was nearly impossible," he added.

Eventually, in the darkness of the trees and the fading light, the bodies of pilot Niall Bowditch and young Kasper Kacprzac were removed from the plane.

Yesterday morning, the job of mapping the scene and transporting the wreckage began.


The stricken plane lay in three sections after being pulled from the bog.

One of the wings had sheared off in the woods just before impact.

An outer cordon had been established by the AAIU 20 metres around the crash site, which itself was 300 metres in from the big track. Then a second, inner cordon had been placed directly around the wreckage itself.

To the naked eye, the damaged section of the plane, made of light metal and coloured blue and white, was all that could be seen of aircraft GKNYS.

Fine Gael councillor Liam Quinn called the tragedy "a very black day for Offaly".

"There's going to be a primary school with one less pupil and that's just absolutely tragic, it's very sad," he said.

"I'd like to extend my sympathies to the families and our thoughts are also with the members of the parachute club," he added.

Fellow Offaly councillor Noel Cribbin said: "This is a big shock to the area. These flights have been happening for the last 20 years and this is the first time I've heard of a plane going down; it is very worrying."


At 1pm Supt Tom Mullarkey from Tullamore told waiting media that a low loader would have to be transported to the site.

"They are working in difficult conditions, and it could take time," he said.

By 3pm the word coming from the site was that one piece of wreckage had been pulled from the bog, but that working on the main body of the plane and the wing attached to it was likely to take "hours".

The work was painstaking but necessary to ensure that the components of the plane could be removed as intact as possible so that when it is examined in more detail the cause of the crash can be established.

The AAIU confirmed in a statement that it deployed three inspectors and that the wreckage would be brought to its facility at Gormanston Military Camp for technical examination.

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