Top businessman named among two victims of air crash as tributes pour in

A successful local businessman has been named as one of the dead as tributes pour in for the two victims of a light aircraft crash in Northern Ireland.

Philip Murdock, along with a woman who has not so far been named, lost their lives in the tragedy at Newtownards Airport, in County Down, on Tuesday night.

It’s thought the pair were both members of the Ulster Flying Club, reported BelfastLive.

In a statement issued through Ulster Flying Club, a spokesperson confirmed the incident is now being looked into by specialist investigators.

The statement read: “On behalf of the Chairman, Directors, members and staff of the Ulster Flying Club, it is with great sadness and regret that we must share the tragic news that two of our club members lost their lives in the aircraft crash that took place at our airfield in Newtownards last night, the 19th of July, at approx. 20:20.”

Mr Murdock is believed to have been flying the plane, reported the outlet News Letter, which said he was the founder and managing director of Craigavon-based business security company Envision Intelligent Solutions – that had only recently been bought by a multinational conglomerate.

The incident is being investigated now by specialist investigators from the PSNI and the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the CAA. A spokesperson for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch said they were made aware of the fatalities.

They added: “An accident involving a light aircraft which occurred last night near Newtownards has been notified to the AAIB.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Mike Nesbitt said: “The airfield is a fixture of the town, situated right on the edge of the urbanisation, not miles and miles from the town centre.

“So on a daily basis we are all used to seeing light aircraft and helicopters overhead.

“This is, above all, a human tragedy and our thoughts are with the family members and friends who have lost loved ones.”

Alliance Party councillor Vicky Moore lives near the airport and visited the scene following the crash on Tuesday evening.

She said: “It is a huge shock to the community and obviously all our thoughts are with the families of those who have been affected and particularly those that have died in the accident.

“Really the airport here in Newtownards is part of the community, it is very busy, it has been a fixture in the town for a very, very long time.

“Local people are used to the activity at the airport and this will be a terrible shock to them. I live under the flight path, probably about 10 to 15 minutes’ walk away.

“I was at the scene last night. Police were preventing anyone from getting access to the airport but you could see that a number of emergency vehicles were there. This is a very rare occurrence bearing in mind the amount of activity there is at the airport.

“It is mostly flying schools who use it, pleasure flying, small, independent and private aircraft use it. The airfield is so popular, it is not expected that something like this would happen.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “It was reported to police at 8.20pm that a light aircraft had crashed at the airport.

“Officers and other emergency services attended the scene. Sadly, two people were pronounced dead.”

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service attended, and said no patients were taken from the scene on the Portaferry Road in the town.

A statement said: “NIAS despatched two emergency crews, a doctor and an ambulance officer to the incident. No patients were taken from the scene.”