‘He was a nice guy who never did anybody any harm’

FRIENDS of the Irish skydiver who died in a plane crash in Australia paid tribute yesterday to a man described as a “happy-go-lucky character”.

It also emerged yesterday that skydiving instructor Nigel O’Gorman, from Naas in Co Kildare, was due to return home shortly to share his expertise.

Mr O’Gorman, 34, was one of five people who died after the single-engine Cessna 206 crashed into a small reservoir east of Brisbane after suffering what appeared to be a power failure after takeoff.

The popular Irishman had been in contact with fellow skydivers in the Irish Parachute Club in Offaly about a return to Ireland, according to the club’s chief instructor Colman Brouder.

“He was due back in the summer at our centre and he was going to do some work with our instructors and bring them up to date on current stuff that was happening around the world,” he said.

“We were looking forward to that happening, him coming back.”

Mr O’Gorman had been living in Australia for five years and had been due to receive Australian citizenship in April.

Mr Brouder said Nigel O’Gorman had told him skydiving was his dream job and that he loved waking up every day to do it.

“He actually loved doing what he did every day. He was making his living from it. He left Ireland to go off and do it full time. There wouldn’t be enough work in Ireland to do it full time,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman had skydived in Canada, the US and Thailand before settling down in Australia with the Brisbane Skydiving Centre.

He had progressed from working as a tandem master, who straps novice skydivers to his body, to coaching skydivers in accelerated freefall.

Mr Brouder said that deaths among Irish skydivers were extremely rare, despite 15,000 jumps annually at his club.

“I’ve been involved in it 16 years and I haven’t known any other Irish skydiver to be killed in that way,” he said.

Mr O’Gorman had learnt to skydive with the Falcons Parachute Club in Co Carlow in the early 1990s.

The club’s drop zone manager, PJ Lawlor, said the small skydiving community in Ireland was saddened by his death.

“He was a happy-go-lucky character, a nice guy who never did anybody any harm. He’d bend over backwards most of the time to help anybody out,” he said.

“He was a builder and a cook and things like that, but he gave it up once he became a professional skydiver. It becomes a way of life. Once it gets into the blood, you’re hooked,” said Mr Lawlor.

Meanwhile, it emerged that the engine on the plane which crashed on Monday is similar to one recalled by its US manufacturers Lycoming in 2002 after a crash in Australia two years earlier claimed eight lives.

Witnesses to the accident claimed that smoke was seen coming from the rear of the plane, hinting at possible engine failure.

Chief crash investigator Alan Stray told Queenland’s Courier Mail yesterday: “The focus is on the whole of the aircraft and its operation, but because we have had advice that there was a puff of smoke seen from the engine and the fact the aircraft was not able to maintain the rate of climb that would be expected, that would suggest there has been some major problem with the engine and its systems.”

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