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24 September 2014

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You are in: Liverpool > Local History > Discover > The Times > Aintree evacuated

Aintree evacuation

Aintree is evacuated in 1997

Aintree evacuated

The 150th Grand National in 1997 was postponed and the racecourse evacuated after an IRA bomb threat minutes before the race was due to start.

Aintree 1997

2.49pm - Coded bomb warning received at Liverpool hospital less than an hour before the race is due to start

2.52pm - Second warning received by police

3.18pm - Emergency evacuation of course begins

3.58pm - BBC TV evacuated from the course

4.11pm - Meeting officially abandoned

4.14pm - Bomb disposal experts carry out two controlled explosions

When an IRA bomb threat led to the evacuation of Aintree an estimated 20,000 people were stranded in Liverpool as their cars and coaches were left inside the cordoned-off racecourse.

60,000 people were moved out of the course including the world’s media. BBC Radio Merseyside’s Mike Hughes using a radio microphone was the only reporter able to broadcast live from the course as racegoers were being driven away from the main areas, many of them scrambling over fences.

Liverpool’s hotels were full and the stranded spectators were forced to spend the night in emergency accommodation.

Local residents took in many of the racegoers and BBC Radio Merseyside was the centre of an operation to match up people with accommodation.

Aintree Evacuation

Racing was abandoned for the day

The following Monday, 49 hours after the race was originally meant to have started the Grand National was run at Aintree in front of a crowd of 20,000 including the Prime Minister John Major and the Princess Royal. The race was won by Lord Gyllene ridden by Tony Dobbin.

One of the stable lads, Phil Sharp who was looking after Suny Bay, refused to join the mass evacuation and stayed to tend the 100 horses at the course. Initially he had left the area but returned to water the horses because he was concerned for their welfare.

After representations from the RSPCA and Aintree officials the horses were allowed to be removed from the course with many spending the night at nearby Haydock Park.

last updated: 04/07/07

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