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Four bodies found in plane wreck

26 October 08 20:00 GMT

Four bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of a light aircraft that crashed on a mountainside in Wicklow in the Irish Republic.

The Piper PA-28 single engine plane took off from Gloucester on Saturday morning but failed to land at Kilrush in County Kildare at noon.

Pilot Sharif Booz and his wife Margaret, from Bristol, are understood to have been killed.

The other victims were said to be his teenage son and the boy's friend.

Garda, the Irish Coastguard and Irish Aviation Authority, said the wreckage had been found in the remote Corriebracks area after a major search of the rugged terrain.

Jurgen Whyte, of the Irish Republic's Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU), said the bodies had to be dug out of the plane as its nose was embedded in the ground.

"The four bodies were dug out of the aircraft. They have been flown by helicopter to Naas Hospital," said Mr Whyte.

"The priority was to get the bodies out before dark. We've now also pulled the aircraft out of the bog, about one third of it was embedded underground."

He said it was too early to determine the cause of the crash.

A Garda spokesman said relatives had arrived in Ireland from the UK and that post mortem examinations would be carried out on Monday.

"We are preserving the scene to allow investigations to continue in the morning," he added.

The plane had left Gloucestershire Airport at about 1000 BST on Saturday.

But the last radar sighting was at 1230 BST over the Wicklow mountains, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said.

Dublin air traffic control had monitored the flight before passing it over to Kilrush air traffic control a little over 10 minutes before the last sighting.

Concerned relative

But it was not until 1800 BST that a relative of the pilot raised concerns about the plane's whereabouts.

Garda, coastguard, defence forces, and up to 40 mountain rescue personnel from Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary and Northern Ireland began a major search of the rugged terrain at about 0630 GMT on Sunday.

The Garda Helicopter and Dublin-based Coastguard helicopter were also called in.

The discovery of the wreckage was made by mountain rescue personnel who, it is understood, were acting on information provided by a hillwalker.

According to the operator of Kilrush airfield, Ian Valentine, Mr Booz had been using the strip for the last six or seven years to visit relatives in the nearby town of Newbridge.

He said he received a text message from Mr Booz - whom he described as experienced and in his mid-40s - earlier in the week but he would normally expect a phone call on the day of the flight.

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