Tributes paid to Ards woman

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CAROLINE Mawhinney, who died in an aeroplane crash in Newtownards last week was a ‘beautiful and unique character who lived life to the full’. In an emotional and glowing tribute to the 44 year-old who died when the light aircraft in which she was a passenger crashed on the edge of Newtownards airfield, her sister Kelly Andrews said Caroline was a ‘smiling and energetic’ woman who was devoted to her family. Two investigations are underway into the cause of the crash which also killed the pilot, Hillsborough businessman, Philip Murdock. Mrs Mawhinney and Mr Murdock were both members of the Ulster Flying Club based at the Ards airfield. Speaking to the Spectator earlier this week, Mrs Andrews recalled growing up with Caroline in South Africa before the family relocated to Northern Ireland. She spoke of her sister’s determination which secured her a top job as a mechanical engineer with a major world-wide company, her excitement at a pending new career as a teacher and her passion for her family and for flying. “Anyone who met Caroline knew how beautiful and funny she was,” said Mrs Andrews. “She was very energetic and lived every minute to its fullest. She was able to squeeze so much into her short life.” The sisters were brought up in South Africa, where their father John worked in the aircraft industry and where Caroline first developed a passion for aviation and flying. “We had an amazing childhood in South Africa,” said Mrs Andrews. Some of my earliest memories of us as kids is when we would watch the planes at Johannesburg airport. “Caroline was around 10 years old when we moved to Northern Ireland. We travelled for a bit before the move and we were able to create amazing memories,” she added. The family lived with the girls’ grandparents in Belfast before moving to the Westwinds estate in Newtownards and then later to Bangor Mrs Andrews said Caroline, who she described as ‘always a very bright and intelligent person’, entered primary school in P7 and had a difficult time adjusting, especially as she joined the school just before the transfer test. “She went to Bangor High School where she was put into the lowest class but Caroline was always determined and worked so hard. Each year she would be moved up, and would have to join a new class and meet entirely new classmates but she didn’t let anything faze her, that was just who she was as a person and she kept working hard. “She eventually moved to Regent House in Newtownards to study her Alevels and I think it was there she really came into herself. She met an amazing group of friends and did well in her studies.” Caroline then went on to do both B.Sc. and Master’s degrees at the University of Ulster, Jordanstown in mechanical engineering before joining Caterpillar where she worked for 20 years. “She had a brilliant career as a mechanical engineer,” said Mrs Andrews. “She managed teams across the world and had travelled to India, China and America for work. “She was a fantastic aunt to my son, Bailey, who says his aunt Caroline inspired him to go on and study mechanical engineering – she had arranged a work placement for him when he was in school and this is what he says was the deciding factor in his career choice.” Caroline was made redundant shortly before the first lockdown when Caterpillar relocated to India, but she never felt sorry herself. “It wasn’t in her character to do so,” said Mrs Andrews. “She took this time to work on her goals of becoming a fully qualified pilot, working very hard to obtain her pilot’s license and joining the Ulster Flying Club. “She couldn’t have loved that club any more; it was a community of like-minded people who shared a love for the sky. She was always helping out at the club, painting fences and helping in any way she could throughout lockdown. It was an amazing group of friends; they would go on flights together all across the UK and Ireland and would have movie nights.” Caroline decided that teaching would be her new career and had graduated recently with her Postgraduate Certificate in Education and was looking forward to starting a new job as a technology teacher at New-Bridge Integrated College in Loughbrickland. Mrs Andrews said she will remember his sister as always smiling and energetic who really lived life to the full. “She was so loved by all of her family and friends,” she said. “She was an amazing mother to Joshua and Emily and wife to her husband Steven. They met when they were 15 years old and they just fell in love. We always joked how they shared a Caroline with her friends Robbie, Stephen and Tim “She was absolutely devoted to her children and always did the best she could for them. Caroline was definitely an organiser and she would always organise family get-togethers and special occasions. We always spent Christmas together and would stay over and wake up extra early on Christmas mornings with the kids to open their presents. “We also loved going on trips together with all the kids. We went to Paris, Croatia and took them to see Harry Potter things in London – we were able to create so many beautiful, special memories as a family. “She loved to share her passion for flying and would take myself and my dad out for flights. Last year for dad’s birthday we flew over the Mournes right up to Ballycastle – it was such a special day. She was an amazing pilot; she was very conscientious and thorough with her flying. “Anyone who met Caroline knew how beautiful and funny she was. She was very energetic and lived every minute to its fullest. She was able to squeeze so much into her short life.”