By Shane Cochrane
At 6pm on 13 February 2001, a small plane crashed on Benaughlin Mountain in County Fermanagh. There were many witnesses to the crash, witnesses who had watched in horror as the burning craft fell out of the sky.
But when the emergency services arrived at the scene, they found no sign of a plane – crashed or otherwise. And a three-day search of the mountain failed to uncover any evidence that a plane – or anything else for that matter – had crashed.
When the authorities were able to establish that all aircraft were accounted for, the search was called off. But what had caused people to believe they had seen a plane crash?
According to an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory, there was a very simple solution to the mystery: it was a shooting star. “It’s a simple illusion,” he said at the time. “These things will cross the sky quickly and to the uninitiated they look like some sort of falling aircraft.”
But was the astronomer right – or was something else going on?
Just over seventy years earlier, a very similar incident happened in Kilkeel, on the coast of County Down.