Air accident investigators have removed the wreckage of a light aircraft that crashed near Athy in Co Kildare killing two men.

The victims, one aged 70 and the other in his late 50s, were travelling in a BRM NG5 - a two-seater aircraft.

Gardaí were alerted at 1am this morning after the plane failed to return to its base in Kilrush, Co Kildare.

Air traffic controllers identified a brief position of an aircraft in the Belan area. This location was recorded at 7.20pm yesterday evening.

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A ground search was carried out, as well as air searches by the Garda Air Support Unit and the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, Rescue 116.

The wreckage of the aircraft was found in a field at Belan at around 4.30am.

Superintendant Martin Walker, from Kildare Garda Station, said the identity of the two men who died will not be released until their families have been notified.

Their bodies have been removed to the mortuary at Naas General Hospital.

Howard Hughes of the AAIU (L) and Supt Martin Walker speak to the media

The Air Accident Investigation Unit is carrying out an investigation of the scene.

The wreckage of the aircraft has been taken to the AAIU base at Gormanston, Co Meath, for further examination.

Inspector Howard Hughes said that rain had hampered the operation.

He said the AAIU needed to secure the wreckage onto a truck without disturbing any potential evidence, describing this as "careful and methodical".

Mr Hughes said it was the investigators' understanding that there was no onboard flight recorder on the aircraft and that a plane such as this was not obliged to carry one.

Mr Hughes said there was no communication from the aircraft and it was flying in an area where it was not obliged to.

In an earlier statement, the AAIU said the plane was registered in the UK and "was engaged on a local flight from Kilrush Airfield yesterday evening" when the crash occurred.

The Irish Aviation Authority has been notified of the incident and said it will support the AAIU investigation.