Belfast Telegraph

Kegworth air disaster remembered: Survivors call for permanent memorial to 29 'forgotten' Northern Ireland victims

BY JOANNE FLEMING

Flowers have been laid at a memorial site in England to mark the 25th anniversary of the Kegworth air disaster, in which 29 people from Northern Ireland died.

However, commemorations here were more low-key, prompting some of the survivors to call for a permanent memorial in Northern Ireland.

A total of 47 people died in the tragedy in Leicestershire on January 8, 1989, when a British Midland Boeing 737 travelling to Belfast suffered engine trouble and came down on an embankment on the M1.

Yesterday, Kegworth Parish Council clerk Lesley Pendleton laid flowers on a memorial site in Kegworth village and prayers were said at a Holy Communion service at the local St Andrew's Church.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, a small group of survivors gathered for the weekly Evensong service in St Anne's Cathedral, where there was a special mention for victims.

The plane, with 126 people on board, had taken off from Heathrow airport just before 8pm on that fateful Sunday night 25 years ago.

As an evening meal was being served to the 118 passengers, loud bangs were heard coming from the left-hand engine.

But Captain Kevin Hunt and his co-pilot David McClelland shut down the correctly working right-hand engine and efforts to make an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport just failed.

Instead, with the runway at East Midlands only a few hundred yards away, the plane, now on fire and with blazing debris dropping from it, came down on the M1 embankment.

Miraculously, no-one on the ground was injured and, equally amazingly, with the plane in bits, some of the passengers were able to walk away uninjured.

Most of the deaths occurred at the front of the plane, but 79 people, including the two pilots, survived.

A memorial in Kegworth Cemetery was erected by the parish council "to those who died, those who were injured and those who took part in the rescue operation".

Yvonne McCoy, from Toomebridge, whose brother Stephen was left paralysed after the disaster said some survivors would not have wanted to travel to England for the memorial.

"I think sometimes the Northern Ireland ones are forgotten about," she said.

Others survivors such as Alan Johnston, from Strangford, said he preferred to mark the day in a more quiet way.

"Every year is bad for people who have lost loved ones," he said. "There is a reticence about being too dogmatic about the 25th anniversary."

Air disaster anniversary marked  

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