Hopes enhanced footage will help with fatal air crash probe

Air Accident investigators are hoping to enhance the image quality of video recordings taken by parachutists following a jump from an aircraft that subsequently crashed, killing the pilot and a seven-year old passenger.

A preliminary report into the Co Offaly crash that claimed the lives of seven-year-old Polish national Kacper Kacprzac and British pilot Neil ‘Billy’ Bowditch, 47, on May 13, found the Cessna hit boggy ground, nose-down, in a forested area, and the impact was such that the front section of the aircraft was buried in bog.

The Cessna was configured for parachute operations and Kacper’s father, Kris, a Polish national living in Dublin, had taken part in an earlier skydive that day. Weather conditions were described as “quite benign”.

The skydive, just prior to the fatal crash, involved 16 parachutists. The pilot had reported the drop as complete four minutes before the Cessna went down, some 2.5 nautical miles north west of Clonbullogue Airfield.

The Cessna had a certificate of airworthiness.

One witness said the aircraft was flying “sideways” and “low down”, and it was visible one minute and gone the next. Another witness said he heard the aircraft engine, looked up, and saw the aircraft coming straight down, nose first, before it disappeared below a line of trees. He said this was followed by a “thump”.

Radar data showed the aircraft in descent, but valid radar returns ceased seconds before the crash. Investigators said this was “most likely due to terrain masking”. Analysis of the radar data is ongoing.

The aircraft data acquisition system, designed to record data from several engine and airframe sensors, was damaged, but intact. It was shipped to the US manufacturer for examination. The actual date and time were not recorded as a battery that powered the internal clock had expired.

However, some data was recorded and analysis is ongoing. Inspectors said the data indicates that the engine was providing power to the propeller until the end of the data recording.

A viewing of CCTV recordings from security cameras at a nearby windfarm and training facility appears to briefly show the aircraft, in flight, in the distance, before it assumed a steep, nose-down attitude and descended below a line of trees as it approached the ground.

Several of the parachutists provided the investigation with video recordings of their jumps and investigators are seeking to enhance the image quality.

A final report will be published “in due course”.

Kacper, a pupil at Scoil an Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa in Huntstown, Dublin, had been a familiar face at the Irish Parachute Club’s base in Clonbullogue, where his father Kris is a highly regarded jumper.

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