An inquest was told yesterday that cockpit video evidence showed that a 59-year-old pilot was ‘incapacitated’ when his microlight aircraft departed from straight and level flight and plunged to the ground near Ballina, Co. Mayo, last May.
The hearing into the death of Michael McCarrick, an ESB employee from Belleek, Ballina, was told that the impact was not survivable due to severe damage to the aircraft structures and extreme traumatic injuries to the pilot.
Mr. McCarrick, who had taken off from Lough Conn Airfield, Cloghans, Ballina, had installed a forward facing camera in the cockpit of the microlight and this, along with other evidence, indicated he had slumped forward and had no control of the aircraft at the time of the impact.
A subsequent post mortem examination indicated that it was very likely the pilot was unconscious at the time of impact.
Medical evidence was given at yesterday’s inquest by Dr. Fadel Bennani, consultant pathologist at Mayo University Hospital, that a post mortem on the pilot showed evidence of an old myocardial infarction, a past heart attack.
Dr. Bennani said Mr. McCarrick had suffered what he described as “a transient loss of consciousness”. One of the causes of this is heart disease.
In response to a question from a member of the McCarrick family, Dr. Bennani said that in his opinion heart disease caused the loss of consciousness.
Howard Hughes of the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) told the hearing, which was conducted in Ballina courthouse by the Coroner for North Mayo, Dr. Eleanor Fitzgerald, that the primary source of evidence indicating that the pilot became incapacitated was obtained from a compact video recorder recovered at the accident site.
Mr. Hughes said the aircraft had been recently inspected prior to the crash and was found to be airworthy. Also Mr. McCarrick, was a most careful and meticulous aviator and was suitably qualified and licensed.
After an inquest jury returned a verdict of accidental death due to multiple injuries, Supt Joseph Doherty, on behalf of the gardai sympathised with Mr. McCarrick’s wife, Brid and family saying he knew Michael personally as a friend and neighbor and he was one of life’s true gentlemen.
Speaking on behalf of the McCarrick family, a niece of the deceased, thanked everybody who had supported the family and helped them get through the dark days since the tragedy.
Jim Friel, foreman of the inquest jury, joined the coroner Dr. Fitzgerald in the expressions of sympathy.