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Widow criticises air authorities after pilot's heart disease goes undetected
The widow of a man killed in a plane crash has criticised air authorities for allowing a pilot’s severe heart disease to go undetected.
As a pilot for Ryanair Tony Corr flew thousands of people around the world and helped to train young pilots for the company.
The 54-year-old was able to fly Boeing 737s for the budget airline after passing a full medical, including an ECHG test.
However, just months after passing the medical both he and his passenger Richard Leonard died earlier this year when the light engine aircraft he was flying crashed near the A4095 close to Bladon, just minutes after take-off from Oxford Airport, Kidlington.
A post-mortem examination showed that father-of-two Mr Corr had 90 per cent thickening in two out of his three major arteries, which could have killed him at any moment.
Karen Leonard, the wife of 44-year-old Mr Leonard, from Over Worton, near Chipping Norton, said: “I was surprised to discover that Tony Corr had suffered such severe coronary disease and yet was teaching Ryanair cadets how to fly the Boeing 737-800 only days before the fatal air crash in question.
“Surely, someone should have picked up the serious nature of his heart condition. If they had, Richard and Tony would be alive today.”
Wing Commander Graeme Maidement, the specialist pathologist who examined the body of both Mr Corr and landscape architect Mr Leonard, told an Oxford inquest that Mr Corr’s body had revealed that the 54-year-old had severe coronary disease.
He said: “That is something that could have, at any time, caused a range of problems. It could cause angina, caused pain, it could cause a heart attack, it could cause arrhythmia, it could cause sudden death.”
The Piper PA-31 Navajo plane, belonging to Mr Leonard, was on a textbook flight with Mr Corr at the helm, on January 15, when it crashed and burst into flames.
However, Mr Maidement, who works for the Royal Air Force centre for aviation medicine, said Mr Corr could have died from his heart problems before the plane came down.
He said: “There is no convincing evidence that he was alive but in circumstances like this it is difficult to tell.”
Mr Corr had undergone his most recent medical in September 2009. Although that medical and ones preceding it in 2008 and 2009 showed some minor irregularities, his blood pressure was at a normal level and there was nothing to stop him from working as a commercial pilot.
Mr Maidement said more intrusive tests would not be carried out on a pilot unless he showed heart-related symptoms.
A jury at Tuesday’s inquest returned narrative verdicts for the two men, deciding Mr Corr had died from a combination of a cardiac arrest and multiple injuries. Mr Leonard’s cause of death was given as multiple injuries sustained in the crash.
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