A YOUNG pilot who died after collapsing at the wheel of his car near Banogue an hour after landing a plane at Shannon, was described this week by colleagues as “a highly talented professional, with a promising career ahead”.
Denis Metcalfe, 25, from Copstown Cross, Mallow, was driving home from Shannon when his car collided with a pole and went into a ditch at Ballyphillip, Banogue, on the N20, at around 11.50pm on Sunday night.
Gardaí said indications are that the impact had nothing to do with Mr Metcalfe’s death and he may have suffered a sudden medical trauma.
He had co-piloted a 72-seater passenger plane - an Aer Lingus regional flight into Shannon from the UK at 10.50pm on Sunday.
Gardaí investigating the incident said after the collision Mr Metcalfe was able to get out of the car and spoke with a passing motorist, believed to be a nurse, who called the emergency services.
Mr Metcalfe was a first officer pilot with Stobart Air, which was formerly Aer Arann.
“Everyone at Stobart Air is deeply saddened by the tragic passing of our colleague, First Officer Denis Metcalfe,” a statement issued by the company read. “Denis joined Stobart Air on March 31 this year. A former flight instructor at the Atlantic Flight Training Centre, Denis successfully completed his pilot training and was assigned to our Shannon Airport base.”
While Mr Metcalfe’s death appears to have been as a result of a sudden medical trauma, concerns have been raised about the number of accidents on the stretch of the N20 road between Banogue and Charleville.
“I’m in Bruree just over seven years now and I think that is the seventh road fatality as well as a lot of accidents,” said Seamus Sheahan who contacted the Leader after initially hearing about the latest accident.
“Going by AA route planner I think it is a stretch of around eight miles, maybe a small bit more. I’m no expert, I’m no engineer, I’m a dad and a regular road user. I’m not just reading about these accidents I am coming on them.”
While Mr Sheahan acknowledged that the NRA have made road improvements, including the widening of crossroads and the resurfacing of the road, he said accidents continue to happen on the “lethal stretch of road.”
Last month, a 23-year-old man died following a two-car collision at Creggane on the N20, between O’ Rourke’s Cross and Charleville.
“They put in traffic calming at O’Rourke’s Cross but the problem with O’Rourke’s Cross is you could have cars coming in 12 different directions there - between both ways on the roads and then the shop itself,” said Mr Sheahan.
Former county councillor, Patrick C Fitzgerald of Croom is calling on the NRA to review part of the proposed M20 motorway route so that a single motorway would be put in place from Croom to Charleville “which would jump start the Atlantic Route Corridor following the shelving of the multimillion motorway M20 project”.
Mr Fitzgerald stated that he was part of a delegation of members of Limerick County Council who met with the NRA on four occasions during the life of the last council and indicated how dangerous the Croom to Charleville road is, which includes the Anhid junction, Cherrygrove Cross, Hynes’s Cross and Rockhill Cross.
It is, he said, “one of the most accident-prone national routes in the country”.