Belfast Telegraph

Gregg defends Munich crash pilot

Manchester United goalkeeping legend Harry Gregg has contributed to a fresh re-examination of the Munich air crash, insisting the pilot blamed was made a scapegoat.

The 79-year-old former Northern Ireland international, who was hailed a hero after returning to the wreckage of the plane to save fellow passengers, said he believed Captain James Thain was hung out to dry in the wake of the February 1958 disaster.

Twenty-three people, including eight members of United's famous "Busby Babes" team, died after their plane ploughed off the runway and crashed into a building on the third attempt to take off in wintry conditions.

They had stopped off in Munich to refuel on the way back from playing a European Cup quarter final in Belgrade, in the then Yugoslavia.

Gregg has taken part in the new documentary produced by the National Geographic Channel into the events of that fateful day and Capt Thain's subsequent decade-long battle to clear his name.

"He was badly treated," said the Ulster man. "He was made the scapegoat."

The pilot's daughter Sebuda has also been interviewed for the programme, while expert air crash investigators re-examined the evidence.

A German investigation in the wake of the disaster blamed Thain, whose co-pilot died, claiming a failure to de-ice the wings was the cause of the crash.

After a 10-year campaign by the pilot, British investigators set up their own inquiry and concluded that slush on the runway was the real cause - with the airport held responsible. However, the German authorities have never accepted that finding.

Air Crash Investigation: Munich Air Disaster will be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel on Monday April 16 at 9pm.

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