The bodies of young aircraft officers lay beside the tangled wreckage of their aircraft on a remote Donegal hillside early this morning while a strict curtain of security enveloped the circumstances of a double crash in which six men died.
Although no-one saw the crash it was thought in Greencastle, the Donegal village a few miles from Moville, last night that the two planes – Gannets on an exercise from Ballykelly – collided in mid-air.
The six dead naval officers were named last night by the Admiralty as: Lt J H Griffiths, of Porthleven, Cornwall; Lt P Maycock, of Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire; Lt G C Habley, of Carnoustie, Angus; Lt B R Tulley, of Mawwmansmith, Cornwall; Lt P E Martin, of Falmouth, Cornwall; and Lt C J Blanchett, also of Falmouth.
It was just after lunchtime yesterday that the two aircraft crashed in thick mist on Cruckmore Hill, near Greencastle. The wreckage of the two aircraft lay within a short distance of each other on the heather-covered hill.
The Gannets, of RAF Coastal Command, were believed to have been flying in formation before they crashed. They burst into flames as they hit the mountainside and wreckage was strewn over a wide area.
Local man Sean McCormick was first on the scene.
“I heard one terrible impact. I dropped my tea and ran as hard as I could.
“The heat was so fierce I could not get near it. The first thing I thought of was to get a priest. It was a sickening sight but I managed to face it.”
The last of the six bodies was not recovered from the wreckage until shortly before darkness fell, close on four hours after the crash took place. The thick mist covering the mountainside prevented the bodies being brought down last night. They will be brought down the mountain at dawn today and taken to Ballykelly.