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Manchester air disaster survivors make call for apology

Published 17/08/2015

The rear of the plane was particularly affected
The rear of the plane was particularly affected

Survivors of the Manchester air disaster have said they are still waiting for an apology after 30 years.

Fifty-five people died when a Corfu-bound British Airtours Boeing 737 caught fire as it was speeding down the runway on August 22 1985.

Family and friends of those killed as well as passengers who survived will attend a private service at Manchester Airport on Saturday to mark the 30th anniversary.

British Airtours was the charter division of British Airways when the tragedy occurred.

John Beardmore, from Congleton, Cheshire, who survived the fire with his wife and two children, has called for the airline and airport to apologise.

He told the Manchester Evening News: " There were 55 people who lost their lives and shouldn't have lost their lives.

"It's about time they should apologise and put one piece of the closure jigsaw in place - it would only be one piece but as a family we strongly believe everybody should have survived and yes the engine blew out - but we were on the ground."

June Somekh, from Gatley near Stockport, Greater Manchester, lost her sister Vera, her brother-in-law Raymond and her niece Susan.

She told the BBC: " There were so many things that went wrong. I know that an apology isn't going to bring anyone back - but it will at least recognise that there was some wrongdoing.

"There was a lot of carelessness. It's bad and I still feel angry."

The plane was travelling at 140mph when the port engine exploded and fire spread to the main body of the plane.

The captain managed to abort take-off and turn off the runway towards the fire station, but the change of direction meant flames spread to the rear of the aircraft.

There were 131 passengers and six crew on board when the fire broke out. Two crew members and 53 passengers died, most from smoke inhalation.

The disaster led to many safety improvements, including adding fire-blocking seat covers and more fire extinguishers on planes.

Steps were also taken to make it easier for passengers to evacuate in the event of an incident.

A British Airways spokesman said: "Our thoughts are very much with the families and friends of the customers and crew who died in this tragic event 30 years ago.

"We understand their continuing sense of loss, and also the difficulties faced by those who survived the incident and have had to live with the memories.

"The safety of our customers, crews and aircraft is our number one priority at all times. The aviation industry as a whole implemented many safety improvements following this incident, and British Airways remains absolutely committed to achieving the highest possible safety standards.

"There will be a private memorial service on Saturday August 22 2015 to mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary."

Ken O'Toole, managing director of Manchester Airport, said: "Thirty years on, our thoughts, sympathy and sorrow are still very much with those who lost their lives, were injured, their relatives, and the many brave individuals involved in the rescue operation.

"The stories of heroism and stoicism that have emerged from the horror of that day humble us all, and are never far from the airport's thoughts."

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