1965 air crash

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1965 air crash


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The wreckage of the Dakota - Picture Evening Post


On 14 April 1965 a British United (CI) Airways Dakota crashed just to the east of the airport when it hit a landing pole in thick fog on a flight from Paris. The accident claimed the lives of 23 passengers and three of the four crew.


Survivor

The only survivor of the flight, piloted by Guernseyman Peter Self, was 22-year-old air stewardess Dominique Silliere who was thrown from the aircraft when it crashed and suffered two broken legs.

British United Airways Flight 1030X crashed on its second attempt to land, after the pilot had aborted the first approach. The Douglas Dakota hit the outermost pole of the approach lighting system before crashing into a field and catching fire. The crash killed all 23 passengers and three of the crew on board; the flight attendant was the only survivor of the accident.

The aircraft

The aircraft was a Douglas C-47B-20-DK (registration: G-ANTB), converted to a DC-3 for civil use, that had its first flight in 1945, with a total of 18,544 flying hours before the accident. It was being operated by British United (CI) Airways for Jersey Airlines.

Accident

The extra scheduled flight took off from Paris-Orly Airport with 27 passengers and crew on board. Low cloud cover at Jersey made it hard for the pilots to see the runway, leading to an aborted first landing attempt. On the second approach the aircraft's starboard wing hit the outermost pole of the approach lighting system 3,000 feet short of the runway threshold. The impact severed the starboard wing, with the aircraft rolling upside-down and crashing into the ground. The flight deck of the aircraft was crushed and the cabin engulfed in flames. All 23 passengers, most of whom were believed to be French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese farm workers; and three of the four crew members; were killed.

The only survivor was the French flight attendant who was sitting in the rear of the cabin, which had separated from the remainder of the fuselage following the impact. She was badly injured, with two broken legs.

A newspaper report of the crash

Cause

The accident investigation concluded that the accident was the result of the pilot attempting to land in visibility that was far below that laid down by the airline's procedures. The weather in the Channel Islands had been poor all day, with many flights cancelled. Despite being informed during the flight of the poor and deteriorating condition, the pilot elected not to divert to another airport.

From a 2009 BBC website report

Forty four years ago, a muddy field in St Peter became the scene of Jersey’s worst air crash. On a foggy night on 15 April 1965 Jersey Airlines flight number 1030X from Paris Orly crashed on the approach to the airport.

The Dakota aircraft burst into flames and 27 people died. Only the air hostess, who was flung from the wreckage on impact, survived.

The emergency services were rapidly on the scene, but despite their best efforts, there was little they could do.

Ordinary heroes

One of the many heroes on that night was Peggy Syvret, who lived at the end of the airport runway. She played a crucial role in the survival of Dominique Sillere, the air hostess. She described the chain of events, which led to her involvement.

"When it was foggy and we heard aircraft coming in, my husband and I would always go out and check if everything was ok. This night we heard a bang, which didn't seem to be that loud, and we went outside to see what had happened."

Realising it was a plane crash, Mrs Syvret sent her children to their grandmother’s and then took off across the neighbouring field to help.

"My husband set off to get the airport fire brigade and I ran across the field towards the plane. When I arrived I saw the air hostess lying next to the wreckage. There was fog and flames everywhere. I said to her ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you, but I have to pull you clear’. I was worried the plane would explode. I was up to my knees in mud, but I wasn’t afraid at all. I think in those situations you don’t think, you go just go and help.”

Mrs Syvret helped get Dominique Sillere – who was suffering from two broken legs – into the ambulance and rode with her to the hospital. She then raced back to the scene and continued to help with the rescue effort until dawn.

Peggy Syvret actions won her the Humane Society’s Bronze Medal. However, she wasn’t to come away unscathed. The memories from such a traumatic event were to haunt her for the next two years.

"I kept asking myself whether there was anyone else I could have saved. For two years this question kept banging in my head. I will never forget that horrible night".
Flight magazine report of the investigation - click on picture to see full-size version

Tom McGinn

The courageous spirit displayed by Mrs Syvret was matched by the emergency services, many of whom had no experience of an accident of that magnitude.

Retired policeman Tom McGinn was a young constable at the time. He arrived on duty and soon found himself speeding to the airport in a squad car to assist in the rescue effort.

"I had never seen a plane crash before and I just did not know what to expect. When we arrived on the scene the carnage the fire and the chaos was just unbelievable. We just got on with our job. It was frightening, especially with the fire and the chaos. People were running in every direction. The first thing we had to do was clear the roads so the emergency services could get through. That was our main job. People were stopping their cars and running across the field to see if they could help and that was making the situation even worse.”

Although he had never been in a desperate situation such as this before, Mr McGinn said it was immediately obvious that there were serious casualties.

"The plane was on its back and I could see the people still strapped into the aircraft. The aircraft was broken, there was fire there. The fire service were risking their lives under the aircraft. Fuel was flying out and the flames; they were trying to rescue the people. I remember the ambulance services, as they got the bodies out; the people, they had to examine the people to make sure, with the carnage, and well it was very, very difficult."

It is forty four years since that terrible night, but the memories remain burnt into the memory of Mr McGinn.

"I have never forgotten that particular night. I was absolutely shocked. I think we all were suffering from shock, but we had to get with our jobs. Life had to go on.”

Bernard Gardener

Bernard Gardener was operations manager at Jersey Airlines described how he first heard of the crash.

"The first I heard of it was on television. I had only recently moved home and I hadn’t yet had a telephone installed. Our operations staff were unable to warn me that this was going on. The pilot should never have made an approach in those conditions. They were well below the minimum that should have applied to make an approach. He tried it and didn’t get away with it. Air traffic control had no control over it, but they would have reported to me if he had made it. If that was the case, he would have lost his job. He lost his life instead."
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