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Withernsea’s lifeboat heroes

remember Kegworth air crash

    By Gina Hobbs  
       
   

WITHERNSEA heroes were among those who commemorated the tragic events of the Kegworth Air Disaster 30 years ago.

Retired Withernsea lifeboatman Barrie Brigham and colleagues who pulled people from the wreckage, were invited to a memorial service at Kegworth to mark the 30th anniversary of the tragedy. He attended with retired lifeboat crew members Des Simmonds, Ken Fowler and their wives.

Wreaths were laid at the permanent memorial in the village’s cemetery where much of the earth from the crash site was moved to after the disaster.

Forty-seven people died when the Boeing 737-400 flight from London to Belfast crashed on the embankment of the M1 at Kegworth while attempting an emergency landing at East Midlands Airport on January 8, 1989.

Thanks to the skill and bravery of the Withernsea RNLI lifeboat crew and the tireless work of the emergency services, 79 people survived, although many were seriously injured.

Members of the Withernsea lifeboat crew and friends were driving home from the London Boat Show when they saw the plane coming down on the carriageway of the M1 in Leicestershire.

They clambered up the aircraft’s wing, which was saturated in aviation fuel, to rescue passengers. Speaking of the night when they saw the aftermath of the plane crash with the aircraft embedded in the M1 embankment near Kegworth, former Withernsea RNLI crew member Barrie Brigham said: “We weren’t expecting something like that. It was horrifying but our training kicked in and we said ‘let’s get up there and get everyone out.”

Barrie, who was the honorary secretary of Withernsea RNLI at the time was one of the first people to climb on to the plane’s wing to pull people out. Even though the aircraft was covered in aviation fuel as the engines were on fire, a human chain was formed to get passengers to safety.

“I remember one passenger, Alan Johnston from Ireland. When we got him out we thought he was dead, but then we saw his eyes flicker,” explained Barrie.

Alan went on to make a full recovery and Barrie was invited to meet him in Northern Ireland, at the launch of a book Alan had written.

The Withernsea Lifeboat crew was honoured for its courage and brave actions in 2008 at Northern Ireland’s prestigious Stormont Castle, the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This was due to Father Gary Donegan, from Belfast’s Holy Cross Ardoyne RC Church, who was instrumental in arranging for them to be honoured for risking their lives to rescue passengers from the 1989 Kegworth air crash.

On December 18, Father Gary, was recognised with an honorary degree from Queen’s University Belfast, for his outstanding contribution to peace and community work.

He stayed in Withernsea on Monday to travel to Tuesday’s service at St Andrew’s Church, Kegworth with Barrie and friends and colleagues. “The Withernsea lifeboat men brought their skills to bear at the scene. They were the right people there at the right time,” he said, adding they had risked their lives to save passengers in the plane and performed an incredible act of mercy in extraordinary circumstances.

“They were true heroes who came to help our people through their own goodness which overruled their own self-preservation. I am very privileged and honoured to be part of this, especially so because I have connections at home with some of the families and obviously some of those who died.”

 
         
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