Missing pilot Patrick Coyle

An extended Inishowen family has been “left devastated” by an Alaskan air tragedy, which has claimed the life of their cousin, air ambulance pilot, Patrick Coyle (63).

Two of Mr Coyle's colleagues, flight nurse, Stacie Rae Morse (30) and flight paramedic, Margaret Langston Allen (43) also perished in the accident.

According to the Alaskan Coast Guard, Patrick’s twin-engine King Air 200 plane took off from Anchorage (south-central Alaska) on Tuesday past, to fly to Kake, on the northwest coast of Kupreanof Island (south-eastern Alaska.)

However, the plane failed to arrive at its destination at the expected time of 6.19pm that evening and was subsequently reported missing.

Speaking to Donegal Now, Mary Lyttle, one of Patrick’s cousins, said the whole family has been “left devastated” by the tragedy.

Mary said: “We just can’t believe Patrick has gone. He was so full of life. He used to phone me every other week and he always had a story or a joke. He was very close to his whole family.

“He kept in touch with his cousins in Inishowen and in the US. He always had a big smile on his face. All I can hope for now is that Patrick’s remains and those of his colleagues are found, so that the families can have some closure.

“The Coast Guard called off the search for survivors on Friday past. They are now searching for the plane’s flight recorder, to try and find out what happened. Apparently, it beeps for four weeks after a crash.

“The Coast Guard also found aeroplane debris the day after the crash, but they have not yet confirmed whether it belongs to Patrick’s plane or not. Patrick was a very experienced pilot. He flew for the Navy and later for Customs and Excise. He had lived in many places including the Virgin Islands, but he moved to Alaska nine years ago and described the community as being like “another family” he had settled in so well. He loved working for Guardian Flight,” said Mary.

The tragedy has been compounded by the fact that flight nurse, Stacie Rae Morse was seven months pregnant and flight paramedic, Margaret Langston Allen had just got married in September past.

Patrick’s father Owen Coyle (95) had just returned to the States after a visit to Inishowen. Owen emigrated from the home house in Burnfoot’s Brae Road, to the US in 1947 and now lives in Lansdale, Philadelphia.

Owen’s sisters, Patrick’s aunts, remained in Inishowen. Bridie McCallion lives in Buncrana and Mary Doherty (Mary Lyttle’s mum) lives in Burnfoot. His brothers, Patrick’s uncles, Paddy and James Coyle live in Derry.

Patrick’s mum, Katie (deceased) was originally from Toombridge. According to Mary, Katie’s brother, Patrick’s uncle, Tommy Joe Johnston, also lives in the States. He also has an uncle, Hugh Johnston from Portstewart, who owns the Railway Bar in Coleraine.

Mary said: “Patricks sisters, Kathleen, Mary Ellen and Betty Anne and his brothers, Michael, John, Brian, Owen and twin Billy have all returned home from Alaska.”

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