Kegworth air disaster: 30th anniversary service held

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Media captionArchive footage shows disaster aftermath

Survivors and the families of the 47 people killed in one of the worst British air disasters have gathered for a service to remember the dead.

A Boeing 737, carrying 126 people, crashed on to the M1 in Leicestershire on 8 January 1989.

Witnesses described the “devastation” as the plane plunged into the embankment and smashed into pieces.

Reverend Lauretta Wilson said the “fateful night” had never been forgotten in Kegworth.

British Midland flight 92 had been diverted to East Midlands Airport after leaving Heathrow for Belfast when one of the plane’s engines caught fire.

The pilots then mistakenly switched off the wrong engine on the way to the airport.

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The pilots shut down the wrong engine and the plane crashed on the M1 in Leicestershire

Witnesses said the plane “bounced” over the motorway, hit the central reservation and crashed into the embankment.

About 150 people attended the service at St Andrew’s Church in the village, where floral tributes were laid outside.

Opening the commemorations at the 30th anniversary service, Reverend Wilson said: “Kegworth has never forgotten that fateful night on January 8 1989.

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Survivors and the families of those killed attended the service at St Andrew’s Church

“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.”

Wreaths and flowers have also been placed at Kegworth Cemetery to remember those who died.

Members of the emergency services, who were first at the scene when the aircraft crashed, also attended.

‘I’m sitting here alive’

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Leslie Bloomer was returning home from the London Boat Show

Leslie Bloomer, 57, was on his way home having visited the London Boat Show with his friends, Rodney and Jean Burrows, who both died in the crash.

“We shouldn’t have even been on that flight. We got to Heathrow early and I changed the flights from 21:20 to 19:20 BST,” he said.

Describing the crash, he added: “We could see small bits of debris, sparks coming out of the left-hand engine.

“You could feel [the plane] wavering as the pilot struggled to keep it straight and then it thumped on the ground with an awful bang.

“When it came to a halt I suddenly realised ‘I’m sitting here alive’… There was a hole at the side of the plane which I started to clamber out through.

“This guy came walking up and just grabbed me and carried me down the banking.”

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Wreaths and have been placed at Kegworth Cemetery to remember those who died

‘It will live with me forever’

By Chris Heard, BBC News

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

I was sitting at home in my flat in Leicester on the night of Sunday 8 January, 1989, when I took a phone call from my newsdesk.

Reports were still vague, but a plane had come down on the M1, some distance short of East Midlands Airport.

My brief was to head to Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre where survivors were being taken with various trauma injuries. Other passengers arrived in body bags.

A genial news editor and my late friend, Jim McPheator, lived not far from Kegworth and was the first journalist at the scene.

Jim was a proper hack of the old school, but his first instinct was to tend to the wounded and distressed. He became a legend for helping to pull the injured from the wreckage.

I joined them at the scene and we sent our eyewitness interviews and updates back to the banks of copytakers sitting alongside the newsdesk.

The sight of that wreckage on the M1 embankment at first-light was something that will live with me forever.

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Barry Bingham said he and his lifeboat colleagues climbed up the wreckage to help with the rescue

A lifeboat crew, from Withernsea, Yorkshire, were travelling back from a training exercise when they saw the plane coming down.

Barry Bingham, who with his colleagues helped with the rescue, said “A lot of sparks came out from the engines and that was the point where one of them blew up.

“The wreckage was in three parts. There were flames coming up from the engine.”

Mr Bingham said the only person they saw “was a chap who was wandering around the motorway in a uniform”.

“It was only later I realised it was a steward out of the aeroplane, he fell out the back,” he added.

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Clive Sparling said “it was hard to take in” when he arrived at the scene of the crash

Clive Sparling was a 20-year-old Leicestershire police constable when he was deployed to the scene of the crash.

“I saw first hand the absolute devastation. It was hard to take in. A plane broken in two on the edge of the M1,” he said.

Most of the people on board were from Northern Ireland and some are still suffering from the injuries they sustained in the crash.

As it happened – 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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