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Flowers and prayers to remember Kegworth air crash

The scene after a Belfast-bound British Midland Boeing 737 crashed on an embankment of the M1 at Kegworth after suffering engine trouble in 1989.

The scene after a Belfast-bound British Midland Boeing 737 crashed on an embankment of the M1 at Kegworth after suffering engine trouble in 1989.

Flowers will be laid on a memorial site and prayers will be said in church this week to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Kegworth air disaster in Leicestershire which claimed 47 lives when a Belfast-bound plane crashed following engine trouble.

Fittingly, the flowers will be placed by Lesley Pendleton, who was clerk to Kegworth Parish Council at the time of the crash and remains in her post 25 years on.

The flower laying is a task that has befallen Mrs Pendleton and others each year since the fateful night of Sunday, January 8, 1989 when a Belfast-bound British Midland Boeing 737 crashed on an embankment of the M1 at Kegworth after suffering engine trouble.

As well as the 47 deaths, the crash resulted in 74 serious injuries.

En route from Heathrow with 126 people on board, the plane developed a problem with one of the engines. It later transpired that when the trouble occurred the pilots had shut down the wrong engine before attempting to land at nearby East Midlands airport.

Crashing on to the M1, the plane somehow managed to avoid hitting any vehicles and no-one on the motorway was hurt.

On the night of the crash, Mrs Pendleton, now 67, was driving her daughter Susan, then 12, home to Kegworth when she saw a plume of smoke.

She said yesterday: “The crash site was just 100 yards from our home. Everyone came to help. The whole village rallied round.”

Mother-of-three Mrs Pendleton added: “I was involved in setting up a disaster appeal and many hundreds of thousands of pounds was raised.”

News Letter journalist Billy Kennedy, who was working on the paper’s newsdesk on the night of the crash, said: “The story broke about three hours before our first edition deadline.

“When the first Press Association rushes came through confirming that the plane was Belfast-bound and there were serious casualties, we hurriedly cleared the decks to ensure we had adequate page one and inside coverage. From memory, we did four editions that night.

“Staff journalist Lily Dane, a Fermanagh girl whose reports on the Enniskillen IRA bombing the year before were very special, was our duty night reporter. Lily was rushed to Aldergrove airport where anxious relatives of the stricken passengers had gathered and she did a trojan job helping to pull together the details of the crash and the local angles.

“It was a huge story that continued into the following week with the funerals of those killed, some local. It was a tragic night, one that poignantly stood out for me in my 40-year News Letter journalistic career.”

The 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”.

As well as the flower laying on Wednesday, the day of the anniversary, prayers will be said at a regular service at Kegworth’s St Andrews Church, conducted by the rector, the Rev Gill Turner-Callis.

 

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