Northern Ireland

Kegworth: Survivors and victims' families remember tragedy

Kegworth tragedy, image of plane crash
Image caption Forty seven of the 126 people on board were killed

Victims' families, survivors and many of those first at the scene of the Kegworth air tragedy have gathered in the village to remember the crash.

It is exactly 30 years since a British Midlands flight from Heathrow to Belfast crashed as it tried to divert to East Midlands Airport.

Children were left without parents. Men and women lost their wives and husbands.

Many passengers also suffered life-changing injuries.

Unlike other tragedies around the same time the focus for the past three decades has been on those who survived. Little has been documented about those who passed away.

Forty-seven people were killed, 29 of them were from Northern Ireland.

Image caption The plane crashed on the M1 at Kegworth, Leicestershire in 1989

The Reverend Lauretta Wilson told about 300 people who gathered for Tuesday's service in the Leicestershire village: " "Kegworth has never forgotten that fateful night on 8 January1989.

"Whatever our motivations, it is good to have the opportunity to remember and honour those who lost their lives.

"The dreadful event shook all of our communities."

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Media captionNews of the plane crash was broken on BBC Two by Michael Buerk

Hymns were sung, prayers were said and candles were lit.

The names of all those who lost their lives were read out. This was followed by a minute's silence.

Some of those who had flown from Northern Ireland to attend the commemorations wiped away tears as people paid their respects.

Wreaths were laid by families, emergency services, councils and others at a memorial site in the Leicestershire village.

Despite breaking almost every bone in her body, Dominica McGowan survived the crash.

She believes the reason for such a focus on survivors is because "it's so unusual for people to survive a plane crash".

Image caption Dominica McGowan said she did not realise the scale of the tragedy at the time

'Everyone was quiet'

Another survivor, Mervyn Finlay from Dungannon, had been at the London boat show with three friends.

"We arrived early at the airport and in those days you could just change your flight at no cost - so we changed to get on that flight," he explained.

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Media captionMervyn Finlay remembers no-one being scared

"We were sitting at the back of the wing and, about 10 minutes up, I saw the smoke coming from the wing and the smell of smoke on the cabin.

"The pilot said he was diverting to East Midlands Airport and you might have thought there would be panic but everyone was quiet.

He added: "We could see the East Midlands Airport but he said to prepare for a crash landing and that's all I remember until I woke up in hospital seven weeks later."

Mervyn broke his neck and back and several other bones. He has not been able to work since.

Scale of tragedy

Even though it changed his life forever, he is grateful that he survived when so many others did not.

Dominica McGowan says it was only a few years ago that she realise the full scale of the tragedy: "My son had recorded the news and various other programmes following the crash while I was in hospital.

"When I got home he told me he'd done it but I never watched," she recalled.

"It wasn't until the BBC contacted me five years ago for the 25th anniversary that I looked online and realised how many people had died."

Image caption The Boeing 737 developed a problem in the left engine shortly after leaving Heathrow for Aldergrove

She says she believes she would not have been able to cope with the scale of the tragedy back then.

"So many people died and I could have been one of them but I wasn't and it was just a case of luck," she said.

Timeline - British Midland Flight 92

  • British Midland Flight 92 crashed into the M1 about 45 minutes after taking off from Heathrow
  • It was travelling at about 130mph (209kmph), when it hit a field on the southbound side of the motorway before plunging through trees and smashing into the embankment on the opposite carriageway
  • The front section of the plane - carrying about 15 people - broke away from the main body on impact
  • Inside, all but one overhead locker sprang open and luggage flew through the air, causing head injuries to almost every passenger, and killing some of them
  • Chairs shot forward, crushing people between the seats and causing horrendous leg wounds
  • The plane had come down yards from the village of Kegworth, just a few hundred feet short of the runway at East Midlands Airport
  • Moments earlier, two motorists had seen sparks flying from the jet as it descended towards them. Realising it was about to crash, they managed to slow traffic using their hazard-warning lights

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