THERE was shock and sadness in Limerick this Monday at the news of the tragic death of pilot Niall Doherty in a light aircraft crash in Birr at the weekend.
Mr Doherty, 31, - known as ‘Knots’ to his friends - graduated from the University of Limerick in 2005 and kept strong ties with the friends he made during his time in Limerick.
The Roscrea man lived in College Court while studying business in UL - and had started his studies several years before in the Limerick Institute of Technology.
A fully qualified commercial pilot who trained in America after graduating from UL, Mr Doherty had returned to work in his family’s hardware store business in Roscrea in recent years.
He was an experienced pilot and instructor and had a student pilot with him when the plane crash-landed on Sunday.
The two seater aircraft lost contact with air traffic control at Shannon Airport on Sunday afternoon and crash-landed in a field near Birr Airfield shortly before 5pm.
The Cessna was found later by the Garda Air Support unit, but by the time rescuers located the upturned plane, Mr Doherty and trainee pilot Damien Deegan, from Offaly, were dead.
Investigators from the Air Accident Investigation Unit have started an investigation into the crash, while a Garda investigation is also underway.
News of Mr Doherty’s tragic death reduced his friends in Limerick to tears when it filtered through this Monday.
One said: “He was one of the lads - he was popular, easy going. He was a really good guy”.
“He was well liked,” added the friend. “We are all shocked and devastated. He always came back to Limerick and every Christmas we had our annual get together to remember the years in College Court.
“He will be deeply missed.”
Mr Doherty was heavily involved in the Celtic supporters club in UL during his time there and organised trips to see matches in Scotland.
He is survived by two brothers, Gearoid and Anton, and a sister, and his tragic death was described as a “huge shock” to the town of Roscrea.