Wreckage of plane located in Wicklow

Rescue personnel searching for a missing UK-registered light aircraft today found wreckage in the Wicklow mountains, gardaí confirmed.

The discovery was made near Corriebrock mountain, west Co Wicklow.

The Piper PA-28 single engine plane left Gloucester in England shortly before 10am yesterday for Kilrush airfield in Co Kildare with four people on board.

The last radar sighting was at 12.30pm over the Wicklow mountains, about 20 miles out of Kilrush, according to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

It is understood three of those on board the small private plane were family members, while the fourth was a friend. A spokesman for Gloucestershire Airport in Staverton, Gloucester, where the craft left from yesterday, confirmed the four passengers were from Almondsbury, in Bristol, England.

The Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) confirmed the wreckage is that of the missing aircraft.

Chief Inspector of Air Accidents Jurgen Whyte said: “The aircraft has impacted heavily and deeply into peat ground and it’s not until the investigators get into the confines of the aircraft that we can determine how many people are on board.”

According to the operator of Kilrush airfield, Ian Valentine, the pilot has been using the strip for the last six or seven years to visit relatives in Newbridge.

Mr Valentine said the pilot was experienced and in his mid 40s.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said the alarm was raised at around 7pm yesterday by a relative of one of those on board.

Dublin Air Traffic Control monitored the aircraft before passing it over to Kilrush at 12.17pm, the IAA said.

Mr Valentine said he was not aware the plane was due to land at the strip until a male relative of the pilot contacted him at around 6pm last night from Gloucester.

He said he had received a text from the pilot earlier this week to say he was expected to come at the weekend, but Mr Valentine said he would normally receive a call from the pilot the morning he was due to arrive and that did not happen yesterday.

Garda Superintendent Michael Lernihan, who is co-ordinating the search operation, said: "We have found wreckage of a plane. It was found near Corriebrock mountain."

Gardaí said the discovery was made in the Hollywood area of the west of the county.

Two paramedics and two gardaí are being airlifted to the scene by a garda helicopter.

A garda spokesman added: “It is very inaccessible. It is only accessible by the helicopter."

Gardaí said they cannot yet provide information on whether survivors have been found with the wreckage.

“We have no comment to make on that,” a spokesman said.

The discovery of the wreckage was made by mountain rescue personnel, who it is understood, were acting on information provided by a hill-walker.

A major search operation was launched at dawn this morning which included gardaí, the Coastguard, Defence Forces and mountain rescue personnel from Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary and the North.

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