A Northern Ireland football legend who survived the 1958 plane crash that killed eight Manchester United players said it is important to remember all of those involved in the Colombian tragedy – not just the footballers.
Harry Gregg was 25-years-old when a chartered plane carrying the famous ‘Busby Babes’ crashed on take-off on their way home from a European Cup tie in Yugoslavia.
Eight players along with 15 backroom staff and journalists died.
Following Monday’s disaster in Colombia, when a plane carrying the Brazilian Chapecoense football team crashed killing 76 of the 81 people on board, the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland goalkeeper said he can’t imagine how the survivors and all of the families affected will cope with the aftermath.
“I wouldn’t have the knowledge or know-how to say how people will recover from that. It is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” he said.
“We should talk about the players, and rightly so, but in these type of disasters you have so many others affected, and they all have families. It’s difficult for the families of the players – even the ones of the players who survive – but the same applies to the journalists and their families. They have mothers and fathers as well.
“I feel for the families of all involved, not just the players. People like the pilots and the crew are forgotten at times like this.”
In his autobiography, Mr Gregg said the “notoriety” of the Busby Babes disaster came “at a price,” and added: “Munich has cast a shadow over my life which I found difficult to dispel.”
On Tuesday, the former player told the News Letter: “It took a terrible toll.”
The former goalkeeper said there was no emotional support available for the survivors following Munich, and that the prevailing attitude at the time was: “If you were fortunate to survive it, get on with it and make the best of it and try to block it out of your mind.”
Mr Gregg said it was “a few years” before Manchester United as a club could be described as having recovered from the tragedy.
He also said it was important to remember that this is the fourth such air disaster featuring high-profile football teams – including the loss of the entire Zambian national team in 1993.
“The great Italian team, Torino, in 1949 sadly lost everybody on board,” he said.
“Because I happened to be part of something it shouldn’t say that – and I’m not being clever when I say this – that United were not the only people it happened to.”