Six killed as plane crashes at fog-bound airport
The turbo prop aircraft with 10 passengers and two crew was travelling from Belfast City Airport.
It crash-landed on a runway at Cork on the third attempt to land.
A Cork County Council spokesman said six people had been confirmed dead and six more had been taken to Cork University Hospital.
“The emergency plan has been stood down and the situation is being brought under control,” the spokesman said.
But an airport worker who declined to be named said staff there had been told eight people had died.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said the crash happened at 9.51am.
“It had been trying to land in foggy conditions. This was its third attempt to land,” an IAA spokeswoman said.
It is understood debris from the wreckage was scattered over a wide area across the taxiway to the runway.
The IAA said the plane was a Manx 2 service.
A spokesman said Cork Airport has been shut. “There has been a crash, a Manx 2 airline commuter plane. The emergency services are on the scene,” he said.
A spokesman for George Best Belfast City Airport said: “We can confirm that the Manx 2 aircraft was scheduled to leave Belfast City Airport en route to Cork, flight number NM 7100. It left here at 0812 this morning with 10 passengers and two crew on board. We understand there has been an incident at Cork Airport involving this aircraft.”
Fire crews and police from across the county were drafted in to support the rescue efforts. The main road to the airport was closed to give emergency services quick access.
Manx2.com was founded in the Isle of Man and carries 100,000 passengers a year.
It has set up a helpline in Belfast for people concerned about loved ones on the flight - 02890 427004.
It announced last September that it was expanding its presence in Northern Ireland, choosing George Best Belfast City Airport as its first permanent base outside the Isle of Man and launching the twice-daily service from Belfast to Cork.
The flight takes an hour and 10 minutes on a Metroliner regional commuter aircraft which, according to Belfast City Airport, provides a quality of service akin to the private charter experience.
Mr Robinson said: “This is a terrible tragedy and my thoughts are with the families of the bereaved.
“My thoughts are also with the injured and I hope that they will make a full and speedy recovery.”
The deputy First Minister said: “I am shocked at this news and want to convey my condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in the plane crash.
“My thoughts are also with those who have been injured.”
It is understood the plane ended up on its roof after crashing.
The airport worker said a colleague, who had been dispatched to the edge of the runway to meet and greet passengers off the plane, reported that four walking wounded climbed out of the wreckage.
It had been on fire at the time.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said eight of its ambulance crews, along with a number of rapid response paramedic teams and senior ambulance officers, attended the airport.
The accident will be investigated by the air accident unit of the Department of Transport.
Stormont Transport Minister Conor Murphy said he was in contact with his counterpart in the Republic in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Mr Murphy said: “My thoughts are with the families of those involved and I offer my sympathies to everyone affected.
“I have spoken to the Minister for Transport in the south, Pat Carey TD, and offered the support of my department to help in whatever way we can.
“I continue to be updated on the situation as more details emerge.”
Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley arrived at the airport to offer support to relatives of the dead and injured.
“I came up here immediately. I understand that there are some relatives here so I’m hoping to meet them later on after this very sad event,” the cleric said.
“All we can offer is our support, our help and our prayers at this time.”
Political parties in the midst of a general election campaign cancelled and scaled back events and offered condolences.
The plane was a 19-seat Fairchild Metroliner.
Enda Kenny, leader of the main opposition party Fine Gael, held a minute’s silence at a press conference.
“I would like to offer my deepest condolences to those affected by the tragic accident today in Cork Airport,” Mr Kenny said.
“My prayers are with the families and friends of those who have lost their lives today, and anyone who has been injured.”
Jurgen Whyte, senior inspector with the Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), said the plane had crashed, inverted and caught fire about 1,000ft down the runway.
He said a team of investigators had been dispatched by helicopter to Cork and a second team was on its way.
The AAIU will examine air traffic control tapes, radar information, weather reports and the condition and operation of the aircraft to establish the cause of the crash.
President Mary McAleese expressed her deep shock and sadness.
A spokeswoman said: “The President said her thoughts and prayers, and those of all the people of Ireland, are with the families of the deceased and the survivors at this very difficult time.”
Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail leader, extended his sympathies to the families of the dead and injured.
“I am greatly saddened to learn of the tragic accident in Cork airport,” Mr Martin said.
“My thoughts and prayers are with those who have sadly lost their lives or have incurred injury.
“I want also to commend the emergency services for their work and commitment.”
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson said: “This is a terrible tragedy.
“I offer my profound condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of those killed and injured.
“I have spoken to our Ambassador in Dublin who is on his way to Cork and who will be working closely with the Irish authorities.”
He said a special phone line has been opened by the British Embassy in Dublin on 00353 1 205 3780.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness later revealed he had considered taking the ill-fated flight.
He was due to campaign in the wider Cork area in support of his party, Sinn Fein, which is contesting the Republic’s General Election.
At a press conference in Belfast City Airport, Mr McGuinness said: “This is a very shocking and deeply saddening event.
“The loss of lives is awful and our hearts go out to the families of all those who have been bereaved and indeed the families of those people who have been injured.”
He said the Stormont administration was in contact with police on both sides of the border and was offering all assistance it could.
Mr McGuinness added: “This is a route I have travelled on a number of occasions. In fact, I am going to be in Munster tomorrow and I had contemplated travelling on this flight, but that changed due to other circumstances.
“So I am very conscious of the fact that this is a flight that is frequented by people from the business community, people who have family reasons to travel to Cork and indeed people who are involved in tourism.
“Our hearts are broken for those people who have lost loved ones in this incident and we want to send our condolences and very deep sympathy on what is a very tragic and traumatic time for themselves.”
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said: “This is I think testimony to the unquestionable uncertainty of life.
“Families that start out either to do a day’s business or to enjoy some pleasure have been thrust into circumstances that they could not have imagined.”
The East Belfast Democratic Unionist Assembly member was briefed at Belfast City Airport and said he would be surprised if there were not people from Northern Ireland on the plane.
He added the Department for Regional Development would be making every support available to the grieving families and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey may also become involved.