A PILOT from Sunderland was among the six people who died in yesterday’s air crash in Cork.
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 after a flight from Belfast when the plane overturned and caught fire.
Today Mr Cantle’s parents John, 58, and Ann, 56, have today paid tribute to their son.
Ann, who works as a teaching assistant, said: “He lived for planes. Being a pilot was all he ever wanted to do since he was a little boy.”
But she said Andrew, who lived in York with air stewardess girlfriend Beth Webster, was not even meant to be on the fateful flight. She said: “He’d only been in the job for two weeks. We didn’t think he was meant to be flying today - he told us he wasn’t.
“We’re absolutely devastated. We heard about the crash on the internet, but we couldn’t get through when we tried to phone the relatives contact number.
“Eventually we did, but it just isn’t sinking in. We can’t believe it. Andrew was a wonderful man. We just feel helpless.”
Ann, who has another son, Kris, added: “Andrew met Beth at university as they were both studying the same degree.
“She had been accepted into the RAF but was told there were no jobs because of the cutbacks, so was waiting to fly helicopters in the Royal Navy.
“She currently works for Virgin Atlantic as an air steward.
“They loved each other very much - they’d been together for five or six years.
“I had to break the news to her this morning.
“She was just devastated. It was awful.”
His dad John, who works as a consultant engineer, said: “We’re so proud of him.”
Mr Cantle, who was co-pilot on the flight, was also a well-known member of the RNLI, which he joined in 2000, while on Wearside.
Paul Nicholson, Senior Helmsman at Sunderland RNLI, is among lifeboat volunteers who have been left stunned by the devastating news.
During his time as a volunteer he took part in 65 emergency missions which resulted in the rescue of 66 people.
He left when he went to study for a degree in aviation technology and pilot studies at Salford University.
Mr Nicholson said: “Everyone involved with the lifeboat station is in total shock about the tragic loss of a very close and dear friend. While serving as a volunteer, Andy was always keen to learn new skills and always did everything to a very high standard whether that was taking part in a rescue mission or helping promote the RNLI at a fundraising or promotional event.
“Since leaving the crew in 2008 he has kept in constant contact with the crew and was a regular visitor to the station whenever he was back in the area.
“Our sympathies, best wishes and support goes to his parents, family and girlfriend at this extremely difficult time.”
Four passengers on the flight died along with Mr Cantle and Mr Lopez, including another Brit.
Among the other victims was Brendan McAleese, 39, of County Down, whose cousin Martin is married to Irish President Mary McAleese.
Of the six survivors, one of the people is thought to be a woman from Kent.
It is understood the plane flipped over on landing and caught fire.
A shocked witness said: “The plane just came straight down and hit the ground. It’s amazing anyone survived.”