Cork pilot killed in road crash 'got out of car before collapsing'

Tributes have been paid to a "highly talented" Cork pilot who was tragically killed in a road crash in Co Limerick.

The single-vehicle incident occurred on the N20 Limerick Cork road at Ballyphillip, Banogue, Co Limerick, around 11.50pm last night.

Gardaí believe the driver, named locally as Denis Metcalfe, ​aged ​25, from Copstown Cross, Mallow, may have suffered a heart attack before crashing his 08 D registration​,​ black two-door Peugeot into two ditches.

Mr Metcalfe, who was a First Officer Pilot with Stobart Air, formerly Aer Arann, managed to exit the car after it came to a slow stop but he collapsed to the ground moments later and died.

Gardai said he was immediately attended to by a​n​ off-duty nurse who was passing at the time.

"There was a nurse on the scene fairly quickly. He was also attended to by an ambulance crew with a defibrillator," a garda source said.

A post mortem was due to be carried out at University Hospital Limerick to try to ascertain the cause of death.

It ​ i​s believed Mr Metcalfe was traveling to his home in Mallow from Shannon Airport, ​out of ​where he was base ​d.

"He was driving home and it appears he slowed down and he hit a ditch, and he drove on further and hit another ditch ​. There wasn't any speed involved," the garda said.

"When he got out of the car a witness saw that he just collapsed, so I would say it was a (sudden) medical condition. He was a healthy guy apparently, and he got out of the car and spoke to a witness and then collapsed. The post mortem will tell us more. ​"​

The road, which was was closed for several hours to allow a garda forensic collision investigator examine the scene has been reopened. ​

​'Deepest sympathies'

In a statement paying tribute to Mr Metcalfe, his company said: "Everyone at Stobart Air is deeply saddened by the tragic passing last night of our colleague, First Officer Denis Metcalfe. Denis joined Stobart Air on 31 March this year. A former flight instructor at the Atlantic Flight Training Centre, Denis successfully completed his pilot training and was assigned to our Shannon Airport base.

"He quickly became a very popular and highly regarded member of staff. In his short time with us, Denis made a positive impact with everyone who worked with him. His skills as a pilot had already marked him out as a highly talented professional, with a promising career ahead.

"On behalf of everyone at the airline, we extend our deepest sympathies to Denis’s family, friends and neighbours in Copstown Cross in Mallow. He will be greatly missed by everyone at Stobart Air," the statement added.

Stobart Air took over Aer Arann four years ago and currently operate​s​ all Aer Lingus' regional services from Shannon, Cork ​and​ Dublin.

In March​,​ Aer Arann officially announced its corporate name to Stobart Air.

The company's Irish operations, based in Northwood, Santry, ​c​lose to Dublin Airport, operate 550 flights weekly across 27 routes throughout Ireland, the UK, and France, under the Aer Lingus regional brand.

Its aviation assets comprise London Southend Airport; Carlisle Lake District Airport; Stobart Air plus air freight, maintenance and airport services. EasyJet, Thomson and First Choice operate services at London Southend Airport.

Stobart Group first acquired a shareholding in Aer Arann in 2010 following the airline’s examinership, and ​it ​is the airline’s largest shareholder.

Anyone who witnessed the car crash prior to Mr Metcalf's death​ ​ ​is asked contact investigating ​g​ardai at Newcastle West garda station on 069-20650.

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