The Irish skydiving instructor who died in an Australian plane crash was due to return home to share his expertise, it emerged today.
Nigel O’Gorman, from Naas, Co Kildare was travelling in a single-engine Cessna 206 which crashed into a small reservoir east of Brisbane after suffering what appeared to be a power failure after take-off.
The 34-year-old had been in contact with fellow skydivers in the Irish Parachute Club in Offaly about a return to Ireland.
“He was due back in the summer at our centre and he was going to do some work with our instructors and bring them up to date on current stuff that was happening around the world. We were looking forward to that happening, him coming back,” said the club’s chief instructor Colman Brouder.
Mr O’Gorman was killed in yesterday’s crash along with four other skydivers - two British and two Australian. Two others were rescued from the plane with serious injuries.
He had been living in Australia for five years and had been due to receive Australian citizenship in April.
Mr Brouder said Nigel O’Gorman had told him that skydiving was his dream job and that he loved waking up every day to do it.
“He actually loved doing what he did every day. He was making his living from it. He left Ireland to go off and do it full time. There wouldn’t be enough work in Ireland to do it full time.”
Mr O’Gorman had skydived in Canada, the USA and Thailand before settling down in Australia with the Brisbane Skydiving Centre.
He had progressed from working as a tandem master (the skydiver who straps novice skydivers to his body) to coaching skydivers in accelerated freefall.
“He had achieved more in 12 years than a lot of people had in 40 years. He’ll certainly be remembered in the skydiving community because he would have passed a lot of people through his hands,” said Mr Brouder.
He said that deaths among Irish skydivers were extremely rare, despite 15,000 jumps annually at his club alone.
“I’ve been involved in it 16 years and I haven’t known any other Irish skydiver to be killed in that way. The unfortunate thing about it is that more skydivers get killed each year in plane crashes than they do skydiving. It’s a mechanical device and things can go wrong and that’s what happens.”
Mr O’Gorman had learnt to skydive with the Falcons Parachute Club in Co Carlow in the early 1990s.
Its drop zone manager, PJ Lawlor, said the small skydiving community in Ireland was gutted by his death.
“He was a happy-go-lucky character, a nice guy who never did anybody any harm. He’d bend over backwards most of the time to help anybody out,” he said.
This included acting as the driver at the wedding of Mr Lawlor and his wife.
Mr O’Gorman had worked as the club’s tandem manager before moving to Australia.
“He was a builder and a cook and things like that, but he gave it up once he became a professional skydiver. It becomes a way of life. Once it gets into the blood, you’re hooked,” said Mr Lawlor.
He said that since the club had been notified of the accident yesterday morning, friends of Mr O’Gorman had been on the phone to him in tears.
“The jumping community is only around 200-300 people strong. We’re all a fairly close-knit group of people.”
Mr O’Gorman’s parents, Dermot and Beatrice, are travelling to Australia to recover their son’s body.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it was offering consular assistance to the family.
His Irish fiancee, Emma McCormack, who is also from Naas, was waiting for him at a drop zone 500 metres from the crash site.
“Emma was in the drop zone waiting for them to come back. She was waiting there with Nigel’s mobile phone and stuff. We can only imagine how upset she is,” said his cousin, Robert Grogan.
He told reporters that Mr O’Gorman was a larger-than-life character who loved the outdoor life and travel.