I saw plane tyres bursting, says Aslan star

AIR accident investigators say it is too early to tell if the wheels of a Fokker plane exploded on landing, causing it to veer off the runway and partially ditch in the sea.

However, one of the members of pop group Aslan who was among 40 passengers on the plane is in no doubt that is what happened.

“I was sitting by the emergency exit door. The moment the plane hit the runway I looked out and I saw the tyres on my side bursting. I said it to Alan Downey, who was sitting on the other side, and he saw the tyres on that side were gone as well,” Billy McGuinness said.

He said the plane then sped off the runway at Strandhill Airport, Co Galway, ploughed through a marsh and ended up nose first in the sea.

“When I saw the rubber flapping around the wheels I thought of the Concorde disaster when the heat of the tyres ignited the fuel. Jesus, we were very lucky,” Mr McGuinness said.

“There were a lot of women and children on the plane and they were very shocked.

“But to be honest the shock has really only hit me now,” he said.

The plane’s owners EuroCeltic later bussed some of the passengers back to Knock Airport for a return flight to Dublin. The accident, which happened shortly after 5pm last Saturday, is being probed by a three-man team under the direction of Kevin Humphries, chief inspector of Aircraft Accidents at the Department of Transport.

“We are looking to see how the tyres were damaged, either on the over-run or on landing.

“There was heavy rain at the time but no cross-winds,” Mr Humphries said.

A team from the manufacturers Fokker, is also set to visit Sligo to examine the plane.

“It will go through damage assessment under our supervision. We will also assess damage caused by salt water which got into the cockpit,” Mr Humphries said.

He said the plane, built in 1984, was one of 350 of its type flying around the world.

“It has been a very successful aircraft,” he said.

Investigators have removed the plane’s flight data recorders and voice recorders for analysis.

“We have carried out a preliminary interview with the pilot and hostess. We also have a list of the passengers and their contact numbers and we will probably be talking to some of them at a later stage.”

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