Light aircraft crash victims 'were experienced pilots'

Two people who died when a light aircraft crashed and caught fire in Northern Ireland were experienced pilots, a DUP MP has said.

They were members of the Ulster Flying Club, based at Newtownards airfield in Co Down, Jim Shannon added.

Paramedics, firefighters and an air ambulance helicopter attended the site near Nutts Corner in Co Antrim after the Cessna plane caught fire.

The incident happened close to a wooded area shortly after noon on Thursday, two or three miles from Belfast International Airport.

Emergency services at the scene of a light aircraft crash in County Antrim yesterday. Pic: Justin Kernoghan

Strangford DUP MP Mr Shannon said: "They were very much involved in (aviation) and experienced pilots, there is no doubt that is the case, whatever the reason for the accident."

He said the investigation would be thorough.

The focus has to be on the families - there are two empty chairs, their families are grieving, and we need to focus on how we support the families.

"The flying club is a very strong fraternity, they are a family and they will gather round and support each other."

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said no patients were taken from the scene. It put its major incident protocols into action but the incident was stood down at 12.49pm.

The Air Accident Investigation Branch sent a team to Crumlin.

The plane ended up on a grassy area in the middle of a wood. Part of it was covered by what appeared to be a blue tarpaulin.

Police cordons were established to maintain the integrity of the scene.

Newtownards airport, where the Ulster Flying Club is based, said it would make no comment.

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