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Tragedy brings back memories of Croaghan aircraft crash


BEACHCOMBSearching continuing on the beaches of Belmullet for the missing Coast Guard helicopter crew.

Anton McNulty

THE tragic crash of Rescue 116 and loss of its four person crew in Blacksod Bay occurred just 10km from one of the biggest disasters in Irish aviation history.
On June 16, 1950, a converted RAF bomber which was carrying out a meteorological survey along the west coast of Ireland crashed into Croaghan Mountain on Achill with the loss of all of its eight-man crew.
The Handley Page Halifax plane of 202 Squadron departed RAF Aldergrove in Belfast on June 16, 1950, to commence a meteorological survey on the west coast of Ireland and had completed the survey west of the Kerry coast.
It was returning to base when the weather conditions deteriorated and the aircraft flew into extremely thick fog and crashed on high ground on Croaghan Mountain around 4pm.
Croaghan Mountain is located on the western edge of Achill Island and is located just 10km south of Blackrock lighthouse, where contact was last lost with R116.
All eight crew members on board the Halifax plane, which served as a bomber during World War II, were instantly killed in the collision.
The last position report received from the aircraft (immediately before impact) had placed its position to the southwest of Shannon - in fact the aircraft was actually 148 nautical miles ahead of the position calculated by the navigator.
A newspaper report at the time stated that local people initially thought the crash was the sound of thunder but when it was not repeated, they decided to investigate. When the wreckage was found, it was strewn across half a mile of the mountain and the bodies were ‘thrown here and there’.
The majority of the fuselage from the Halifax was taken from the mountain but the four large engines remain on the mountain and are visible to this day.
The squadron crew were: Pilot, Ernest George Hopgood; Navigator, Joeseph Kevin Brown; Co-Pilot, Michael William Horsley; Engineer, Harold Shaw; Air Signaller, Cornelius Joeseph Rogan; Gunner, Martin Gilmartin; Meteorological Observer, James Charles Lister and Airman, Bernard Francis McKenna.