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Sunday 18 August 2019

Birthday party guests witness crash death of pilot dad-of-three

Richard 'Dick' O'Connell
Richard 'Dick' O'Connell

The family of a father-of-three are "heartbroken" over his death after the light aircraft he was piloting crashed into electricity cables.

Richard "Dick" O'Connell (51), from Gowran Cross, Co Kilkenny died when his two-seater glider crashed about 200 yards from his home.

The accident happened at around 9pm on Friday close to Gowran Park racecourse and is around eight kilometres from Kilkenny city.

The father of three teenage children, one boy and two girls, was a highly respected builder and stone mason. He was flying over and back around his home taking photographs of his daughter's 18th birthday party when tragedy struck.

A post mortem examination was carried out on Mr O'Connell's body at University Hospital Waterford (UHW).

The Air Accident Investigations Unit (AAIU) spent several hours at the crash scene to carry out a technical examination. There was also a forensic examination by gardai.

Investigation

The aircraft was subsequently transported to Meath for further investigation. Several party guests witnessed the drama unfold as the aircraft crashed near trees and poles.

In a death notice on rip.ie, his family said: "Richard (Dick) beloved husband of Claire and loving Dad of Jack, Abby and Erin. (He will be) sadly missed by his heartbroken family, mother Mary, brothers Murt, Paddy, John, Michael and sister Annamarie.

"(His) parents-in-law John and Shirley, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, extended family, neighbours and a wide circle of friends." Funeral arrangements are still being finalised.

Party-goers, family members and several locals rushed to the site of the crash, however despite efforts to save the aviation enthusiast's life, he died a short time later.

He was taken to St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny city and later transferred to UHW. Gardai from Thomastown and Kilkenny city along with fire units and several ambulances remained at the scene for several hours.

Officers spoke with many of the guests at the house, who remained to comfort the dead man's wife and children.

Talented

A local woman who knew Mr O'Connell said: "He was a very respected man who was known around the county for his skills as a builder, who worked a lot with stone.

"He was very talented and so many people will be so shocked over what has happened and upset for his family. To witness a crash like that at a birthday party is absolutely horrific."

A neighbour of the dead man, who was at the party said: "Mr O'Connell was flying over and back by the house taking photographs.

His daughter, whose 18th birthday it was, had just completed her Leaving Cert while her younger sister had also finished the Junior Cert. Their brother is in university.

"He would have flown over the area hundreds of times. The plane literally came down about 200 yards from the house after he flew into cabling. A nicer and more fun-loving man you could not meet."

Gardai continue to appeal for anyone who may have witnessed the crash or came on the scene in the moments afterwards to contact them on 056-7775000.

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