The loss of two Yorkshire men who disappeared after their plane took off from City of Derry Airport last summer remains shrouded in mystery after a probe was unable to determine the cause of the accident that claimed their lives.
Ray Hymas, 68, and Terry Driffield, 66, were both lost when their Ikarus C42 FB80 microlight with callsign G-OJD crashed into the sea near Cushendun with “significant force” about an hour after taking off from Eglinton on the morning of June 9 last year.
However, an investigation report into the accident, which has been newly-published by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB), said it was impossible to tell what caused the crash as the microlight had been almost totally destroyed.
“Examination of images of the recovered pieces of the aircraft confirmed that it had struck the sea with significant force. However, due to the limited amount of material recovered and the lack of other substantive evidence relating to the accident, the AAIB was unable to determine the cause of the loss of this aircraft,” the report said.
According to investigators another aircraft with callsign G-CDUS took off just before Mr. Hymas and Mr. Driffield, bound for the same aerodrome.
The pilot of that plane reported that “the plan was for the two aircraft to fly around the coast of Northern Ireland in a clockwise direction towards Larne before turning east towards Stranraer and then Kirkbride aerodrome”.
“The last time he recalled seeing G-OJDS was at approximately 1128 hours in the vicinity of Cushendun, on the coast approximately 32 nautical miles north of Belfast, and he heard and saw nothing to indicate that there was a problem,” investigators reported.
Just before 11am when Mr. Hymas was about to leave Derry’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) frequency, he radioed his altitude of 1,200 feet, and said he was routing towards Portrush.
Shortly after 11am, the pilot of a commercial flight reported that an aircraft with callsign “Golf Juliet Sierra” was trying to make contact with Scottish ATC.
However, an Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) told him he could not hear the aircraft’s transmissions.
G-OJDS was eventually reported missing at approximately 7pm when the pilot of G-CDUS called City of Derry Airport on the telephone to find out whether G-OJDS had returned.
Sections of the plane’s rear fuselage were spotted near Cushendun the day after the crash.
The rest of the plane was never recovered.