It was a raw Thursday afternoon, 6th February 1958 and I was coming home from school across town and changed from tram to bus. Across the road was a man selling the local daily evening newspaper with a placard. MAN UTD IN PLANE CRASH. I rushed home and turned on the radio... BBC TV didn't start for another hour or so.
For months the main news story in the media was about THE DAY THE TEAM DIED, and the aftermath. The Busby Babes were returning from a European Cup match in Belgrade against Red Star and after a night of celebration at The Majestic Hotel in the then Yugoslav (and now Serbian) capital were on their way home for a Saturday league match. They refuelled at Munich-Reim Airport and with a snowbound runway it took three attempts by captain James Thain and his co pilot Ken Raymond to attempt a take off for Manchester.
With slush on the runway they never got off the ground, went off the runway, hit a house and the plane started to burn. BEA Flight 609 an Airspeed AS-57 Ambassador charter plane named Lord Burghley was in ruins. There were 21 survivors and 20 dead on the runway and 3 died later in hospital. Manager Matt Busby and youngster Bobby Charlton were pictured in hospital but survived. Duncan Edwards hung on for 3 weeks and then died, as did Captain Raymond, who had been at the controls.
The match had ended 3-3 and with United winning the home leg 2-1 on 14th January they had reached the semi-final. In May they lost 4-0 at AC Milan and won 2-1 at home. It would take another 10 years before Matt Busby realised his dream and defeated Benfica at Wembley for their first European Cup.
19th February and United's next match was at home to Sheffield Wednesday in the 5th Roaund of the F.A.Cup. The official programme, 'The United Review' showed both teams line ups on the centre page, BUT the United side was empty.. no names. They scrapped a team together with some free transfers and won 3-0.
Today at Old Trafford there is THE MUNICH TUNNEL with a history of the club including the disaster and the future. In the South East Corner you can look up at THE MUNICH CLOCK. still showing 3.05 pm 6th February 1958. Coach Jimmy Murphy, partly responsible for the Busby Babes, had been away with the Welsh National team who had qualified on aggregate v Israel to qualify for their only World Cup so far in Sweden. Bobby Charlton made the England squad for the 1958 World Cup but never played.
Nine years earlier there had been another football air disaster as IL GRANDE TORINO the pride of Italy, had returned from a friendly match in Lisbon against Benfica, and in dense fog had crashed into a hill in Turin with no survivors. It was May 4th 1949 and the three engined FIAT G212 hit the supporting wall of The Basilica of Superga. They had been league champions for 5 years in a row. In 1990 prior to the FIFA World Cup semi final between England and West Germany at Stadio della Alpi I took the Sassi- Superga rack railway.up the hill. There is a memorial to the team and great views of the city and the nearby Alps
On 27th April 1993 in the Atlantic Ocean off Gabon, all 30 passengers and crew of a Zambian Air Force de Havilland Canada DC-5D Buffalo crahed into the sea. It was carrying the Zambian national team flying to Dakar, Senegal for a World Cup qualifier. Pilot fatigue and error were to blame. In 2012 Zambia beat Ivory Coast 8-7 in a shoot out to win the African Natioans Cup in a stadium in Librevill., Gabon, only a few hundred yards from the 1993 crash site.
So we come to the latest tragedy as Chapacoense from Brazil on a flight from Santa Cruz Bolivia to Rio Negro Airport in Medellin for the first leg of South America's second biggest club tournament... COPA SUDAMERICA ...ran out of fuel and crashed short of the airport .LaMIa Flight 2933 was a disaster waiting to happen. I have flown into Santa Cruz from Arica, Chile via La Paz, and out again a few days later to Buenos Aores. A Bolivan friend of mine was the engineer who built Viru Viru Airport and was my host. The distance to Medallin was at the limit of the planes fuel capacity. It should have refueled in Bogota, Colombia to be on the safe side.
News and details of the crash and the outpouring of good will from around the world is ongoing as we learn more of the players,officials. crew, journalists and their family and fans. We wish all of the survivors, families, supporters and all of Brazil our very best for the future..