Pilot loss of consciousness likely cause of fatal 2018 crash

File image.
By Catherine Shanahan
Health Correspondent

The likely cause of an air accident in which a pilot lost his life was incapacitation due to loss of consciousness, investigators have found.

A forward-facing video camera which Michael McCarrick (58) installed in the cockpit of his microlight prior to take-off shows him operating normally until shortly before the fatal impact.

The last 27 seconds of recording show the pilot’s head slumping forward with eyes closed “in a manner that suggested incapacitation due to a state of unconsciousness”, according to a final report by air accident investigators.

The aircraft is seen to continue rolling to the left before descending at speed towards the ground, at a rate of 2,000ft per minute, with no attempts to correct its downward trajectory.

Mr McCarrick, a father-of-two, crashed near Ballina, Co Mayo, on May 4, 2018, not long after he spoke by phone with a relative over whose home he had flown. The relative told investigators he “did not sound as if he was out of breath or under any stress”.

The weather was fine when the plane got into difficulties as Mr McCarrick was heading towards the small airfield run by Lough Conn Flying Club at Cloghans, Ballina.

His microlight crashed at approximately 5.14pm.

Mr McCarrick was an experienced pilot who had undergone and passed regular pilot medical examinations and who held a valid licence.

He was taking two prescription medications to reduce both blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Both medications had been prescribed by Mr McCarrick’s GP in December 2013.

Investigators said medical records indicate that the GP knew of the pilot’s flying activity, and was satisfied that the medication was controlling his blood pressure, and that since December 2013, he was asymptomatic.

An autopsy report stated that, ‘The postmortem examination revealed no evidences of the reason of the loss of consciousness”, and that “medical cause of death is related to his extreme traumatic injuries as according to the postmortem findings he was alive at the time of impact”.

Investigators concluded that the probable cause was “pilot incapacitation resulting in impact with terrain”.

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