THIS IS FROM TODAYS SUNDAY INDO......IT MORE OR LESS STATES THE CAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED WHICH IS VERY PREMATURE, INSENSITIVE & THEY MAY TANGLE WITH IAA/AAIU OVER THIS.
My deepest sympathies to all involved.
A GALWAY publican and a pilot died in hospital yesterday after their private helicopter crashed into a heavily wooded area in Co Galway, leaving another passenger fighting for his life.
Mark Reilly, 49, owned the Front Door pub in Galway city and Tom Sheridan's pub on the outskirts of the city.
He died at Galway University Hospital yesterday afternoon. Pilot Damien Bergin died from his injuries a few hours later.
Mr Bergin was from east Galway and was involved in the construction industry. He had formerly worked as a car salesman.
The third man, also from Galway, is in a "critical" condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The trio were airlifted by the Shannon Coast Guard helicopter shortly before 1pm yesterday from a forest near Derrybrien, Co Galway, after rescue crews from the Galway, Loughrea and Gort fire brigades struggled for 15 minutes to free them from the mangled wreckage.
Rescue workers carrying heavy cutting equipment and fire extinguishers waded through mud and water to reach the trapped men. Highly-combustible aviation fuel was leaking from the wreckage but it was made safe.
It is understood the men had been attending the Tall Ships Festival in Waterford and were returning to
Galway on board a Robinson 44 four-seater helicopter when they encountered thick fog near Gort and flew into trees in the heavily wooded area. They lost contact with air-traffic controllers at Carnmore Airport minutes before the accident.
A spokesman for the Galway Fire Brigade said they received a call from a 999 operator at 12.08pm who had taken an emergency call - from either the pilot or one of the passengers - saying their helicopter had crashed and they were trapped inside.
"We think it was the pilot who rang, but the phone went dead," he said.
Gardai and ambulance crews were initially unable to find the crash site due to the density of the forest and a rescue helicopter was dispatched to find it from the air. Another helicopter, which was en route to Galway to refuel, quickly diverted to the last known location of the missing chopper and soon spotted the wreckage in thick forest, only 100 yards from an ESB wind farm construction site office.
The crash site, about 200 yards from a road known as 'the Black Road', was sealed off by gardai for examination by themselves and the Accident Investigation Unit of the Irish Aviation Authority.
ESB crews working on a wind farm in the area also sealed off access to prevent a repeat of the devastating landslide that occurred there in October, 2003. One of the first gardai to reach to scene was slightly injured as he attempted to free the injured men from the wreckage.
Supt Michael Mulryan of Loughrea said at the scene: "The helicopter was reported missing shortly after midday by controllers tracking it from Galway. Two helicopters arrived from Galway and one of them located the wreckage, which was only visible from the air. They led the emergency services to the scene."
As medics treated the injured on the ground, a Coast Guard chopper crew prepared to airlift the injured from the scene to hospital in Galway. An ESB safety official arrived at around 2.40pm and asked reporters, photographers and anyone not involved with the rescue operation to leave the area.
One local reported reported seeing a small black helicopter flying very low in the area some time after 11am.
He said: "I don't know if it was the same one but we thought it was going to hit one of the windmills."