An Irish flight engineer who was mistakenly declared dead 51 years ago has died at age 86 in Britain.

Edmund O'Keeffe was reported dead by the Evening Press on Christmas Eve in 1958 after a fatal accident in Britain, which killed nine people.

The Bristol Britannia 312 had crashed in heavy fog while on a test flight to gain an American safety certificate.

O'Keeffe was one of three survivors of the crash. All seven passengers were killed, while three of the crew of five survived.

The crash took place during Christmas week, and O'Keeffe's sister Maura Green said it took a week for the family to correct the report in the papers.

"For nearly a week people thought he was dead," she told the Irish Times. The family was inundated with condolences over the Christmas period.

"We always said he was like Lazarus. He got 51 more years than some people expected.

“About 20 years later, he flew into Dublin and a journalist came up to the cockpit and said to him ‘I was the one who wrote your obituary’. He enjoyed that.” said Greene.

His wife, Bernie O'Keeffe, was pregnant at the time and said they had to hide the Evening Press from O'Keeffe's distraught mother, who usually sewed religious medals into his clothes in the belief they would always protect him while airborne.

The test flight crashed in heavy fog on the morning of Christmas Eve near Christchurch in the south of England.

O'Keeffe's wounds were so severe that he spent a year in hospital nursing his wounds. He hung a copy of the newspaper report over his bed during his recovery.

O'Keeffe went on to raise a large family and returned to work with the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), and then worked for a Singapore airline. He retired after flying for over 31 years.

O'Keeffe celebrated his "death" every year. He had his 50th "anniversary" last year.

 His funeral will take place in his hometown of Dundrum in Dublin next week.