TRIBUTES continue to be paid to Isle of Whithorn businessman Darren Kelly, who lost his life along with six other British citizens onboard a crashed aeroplane in Nepal last Friday.
Mr Kelly had been on an adventure trip in the Himalayas, but the small passenger plane his group had intended to take to Lukla airport, at the foot of the popular walking trails, burst into flames just minutes after take-off from Kathmandu airport, crashing onto the banks of a river on the city’s outskirts.
This week the 45 year-old’s wife Jannine was among many to pay tribute to the Isle Futures director.
She said: “Darren was my anchor and my best friend, no-one could have asked for a better husband and dad. He was known for his passion for diving and living, he was kind, thoughtful and always enjoyed a chat and a joke.
“Loved by all who met him, Darren will be missed more than we can say, he has left a huge void in all our lives.”
The village’s harbourmaster, Shaun McGuire, also spoke kindly of Mr Kelly.
He said: “I knew Darren well. He was a really fine fellow and mixed with everyone. He enjoyed having banter with the chaps in the pub, especially about football – he was a big Bolton Wanderers fan.
“He loved scuba driving. He was also a golfer and a cyclist and sponsored a local bowling competition in memory of a local fisherman who lost his life in the Solway Harvester tragedy.”
“The whole village is devastated by Darren’s death and our thoughts go out to the family.”
Alastair Scoular, landlord of the Steam Packet Inn, next door to Mr Kelly’s home, said: “He was one of the straightest, most hard-working people I have ever met – a really nice guy. He was part of the community and will be a very sad loss.”
A total of 19 people were killed on the Everest region-bound plane and authorities have suggested a large bird - possibly an eagle - may have struck the plane shortly after take-off.
Brian Hall, a lecturer at the Stranraer campus of Dumfries and Galloway College, leads groups of hikers to Nepal regularly, often using these planes, and has been visiting the country for 10 years. He says he’d hate for a tragedy like this to put others off visiting.
He said: “We have had one girl drop out of our April visit, her dad wasn’t too happy after seeing this in the news. But then we all saw those images of a plane in flames on the ground and of course, it makes everyone think twice.
“But what has to be pointed out is that the primary cause of death for people on trips like these is actually falling rocks, followed by bus crashes, then planes. I’m in no way belittling the horrible situation and the pain these families must now be feeling. However, I’m probably more likely to die in a bus crash on my way to Manchester airport.”
Philippa Oldham, Head of Transport at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers said that 90 percent of bird strikes occur during take-off or landing of aircraft and the majority lead to little damage of the aircraft.
She said: “They can sometimes cause aeroplane failure – particularly if the bird is very large. Bird strikes can be dangerous to both propeller and jet engine planes. In the case of propeller planes, there have been cases where bird strike has damaged windshields, propellers and even the fuselage - all of which can potentially have devastating consequences.
“Aerospace engineers recognise this as a safety issue and are developing computer simulations to model the effects and help mitigate against the impact of bird strike.”