Survivors tell of moments before air crash that killed Sunderland co-pilot

Andrew Cantle with partmner Beth Webster

Andrew Cantle with partmner Beth Webster

First published in News
Last updated

ACCIDENT investigators say systemic deficiencies contributed to a plane crash that killed six people - including its North-East co-pilot.

Andrew Cantle, 27, originally from Sunderland but living in York, died when the service from Belfast crashed in dense fog as it tried to land in Cork in February 2011.

A wing of the turboprop Fairchild Metroliner clipped the ground as a third landing attempt was aborted.

Legal action is being taken by relatives, including Mr Cantle’s family and his partner Beth Webster, and the six survivors .

The final report of Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) said there were systemic deficiencies in areas such as pilot training, scheduling of crews and maintenance as well as inadequate oversight of the service.

It made 11 safety recommendations to the Spanish and European air safety authorities including one about the number of successive instrument approaches that can be made in certain weather.

The service was operated by Flightline BCN and the plane and crew leased by Spanish company Airlada.

Mr Cantle died along with the plane's newly promoted Spanish captain Jordi Lopez, 31, and four passengers - including a relative of Ireland's President, Mary McAleese. 

The report included anonymous recollections of the crash by survivors.

One said: “I do remember looking out and the ground was just feet from below us and it was grass, it was definitely not tarmac.

“And the pilot then gave the plane thrust, to come up out of the cloud. And at that stage the cloud was right to the ground.

“I feel that the plane... immediately after the thrust, veered to the right and tilted... the right hand of the wing caught the ground first and after that it was just mayhem." 

Law firm Stewarts Law, which represents families of dead passengers and survivors, said the reports had raised serious safety concerns.

James Healy-Pratt, its head of aviation and travel , said it also had uncovered a "low cost, low safety" airline operation.

"Air safety is a right and not a privilege, and we are calling on the EU Air Safety Commission to prevent the loss of future innocent lives in similar circumstances."

Mr Cantle was also a lifeboat volunteer in Sunderland, and was thought to be the youngest in the region when he joined at 16.

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