herald

Saturday 19 January 2019

My fight to save Slazenger heir in plane tragedy

A NEPHEW of Dr Michael Slazenger has told an inquest how he pulled his uncle away the burning wreckage of his plane on Powerscourt Estate.

The retired anaesthetist, of The Waterfall, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, was attempting to land his single-engined light plane at a private airstrip on the estate when a wing hit a tree on April, 10, 2010.

The 69-year-old heir to the famous Slazenger sportswear brand died in hospital two days later from burns.

His passenger, businessman Noel Whitney (66), was pronounced dead at the scene.

Dr Slazenger's widow, Noreen, was in court for yesterday's inquest along with her daughters.



Screaming

Nephew Alex Slazenger told city coroner Dr Brian Farrell and a jury that on the day of the accident he went to Greystones for lunch with his wife and saw the aircraft hangar door was open when they returned to their house at Powerscourt.

They settled down to watch TV and he noticed time was 3.09pm when he heard a loud bang. His mother, Sally Ann, ran in screaming that something had happened to Michael.

He ran towards the scene and said it was obvious that the plane had crash landed.

He saw his uncle climbing out of the plane with is clothes on fire. He grabbed hold of him and dragged him about five metres from the plane.

He rolled him on the ground to extinguish the flames and and pulled him further away. He was aware then of two or three small explosions in the plane.

He couldn't see that there was a passenger in the plane, he told the coroner.

"Michael was very calm and fully conscious. He said he could feel his legs but the burns were so sore," he said.

Some golfers from the nearby course ran to the scene of the crash and one, a doctor, gave medical assistance.

Questioned by the Coroner, Mr Slazenger said Michael Slazenger didn't say anything about what happened. "He was very calm," he said.

Dr Charles Williams said he was playing golf with two friends when they heard a bang and saw smoke from the crash and raced to the scene.

Dr Williams said Dr Slazenger was able to speak to him.

"He told me he thought the wheels were not down. He was upset because he realised his friend was in the plane," he said.

The inquest heard that the cause of death was extensive burns.

A report by the Air Accident Investigation Unit, published last month, found that during the final stages of approach for landing, Dr Slazenger initiated a "go around," discontinuing his approach before climbing away to a safe altitude.

It was during this "go around" that the left wing of the plane struck a tree beyond the end of the grass runway.

mlavery@herald.ie

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