SURROUNDED by treasured photographs and memorabilia, the devastated mum of a pilot killed when the passenger plane he was in crashed as it attempted to land today paid tribute to her loving son who “lived to fly”.
Former Sunderland lifeboat crew member Andrew Cantle, 27, from Moorside, and Spanish colleague Jordi Lopez, 31, were making a third attempt to land the Manx2 turboprop aircraft in thick fog when the plane overturned and caught fire.
Today, Andrew’s parents John, 58, and Ann, 56, paid tribute to their son, who was co-piloting the aircraft at the time of the crash on Thursday.
Ann, who works as a teaching assistant at Benedict Biscop School, said the couple spent hours frantically searching the internet for more details after first hearing about the tragedy on the news.
“It came up that there was a crash on the airline which he was working on, but we heard there were passengers on that flight,” she said. “He had told us he was working on mail flights, so at that point we didn’t know he was on it.
“We rang the company and the emergency number, but we couldn’t get anymore information. It was only a few hours later that we were told that he’d switched on to that flight.”
The couple also had to break the devastating news to Andrew’s girlfriend, air stewardess Beth Webster, who he lived with in York.
“As soon as we had it confirmed, we tried to ring her, but we couldn’t get in touch,” said Ann. “We didn’t know if she’d been given the news or not.
“Eventually, we managed to get through to her. It turned out she knew nothing about it. Like all of us, she was absolutely devastated.”
After attending Farringdon School and studying for a degree in aviation technology and pilot studies at Salford University, Andrew went on to complete his training as a pilot before securing a permanent job with a commercial firm.
His dad John, who works as a consultant engineer, said: “Since being about six or seven, he always wanted to be a pilot. He did these tremendous drawings of aircraft and he would make models. He also loved everything mechanical.
“There was never any doubt about what he was going to be when he grew up. He lived to fly.”
Andrew was also a well-known member of the RNLI, which he joined as a teenager in 2000, while on Wearside.
During his eight years as a volunteer he took part in 65 emergency missions, helping to rescue 66 people.
“He’d come back to Sunderland all of the time and always kept in touch with his friends at the RNLI,” said John.
“Whenever there was any event on, or there was fundraising do be done, he’d come along to take part.
“When he volunteered, he’d be called out to incidents at all hours. I remember one time he had to rush out over Christmas. He was always so committed and dedicated.”
Aviation experts from Dublin and the UK are to join forces to examine the crash site in Cork, the wreckage and final minutes of the flight from Belfast.
Spanish authorities are also expected to be involved.
John said: “We’re now just waiting until all the arrangements have been made in Ireland and the investigators have finished up before we go over there.”
Andrew’s brother Kris, 25, who works as a civil servant, added: “I just couldn’t believe it when I heard about the crash. It’s still sinking in.”