Wester Daily Press April 11th 1973. Western Daily Press Reporters
105 Killed on West Day Trip39 survive mothers’ charter flight
Western Daily Press Reporters A DAY OUT by air from Bristol yesterday ended in death near Base, Switzerland, for 96. Nine more are missing, feared dead. All 138 passengers came from Axbridge, Cheddar, Congresbury and Bristol. The plane carried six crew.
Most were members of local women groups. There were 39 survivors. Rescue teams battled through more than three feet of snow to reach the survivors. The British Vanguard plane was on a charter flight. It overshot Basle runway in a blizzard. Ten minutes later a wing tip hit a fir tree and the plane plunged down on its back. British consul in Basle, Mr. Ivan May, said the scene was “dreadful” Ghastly The aircraft was lying in scattered bits except the tail, which was upside down and almost intact, he said. Most of the survivors were in the tail and some managed to make their way to a farm- house to summon help. Mr. May said: “There were a lot of dead women lying round the wreck. I have never seen such a ghastly sight in my life.
Of the 15 survivors whom I met at a nearby farm or in the village, about 12 were women. These survivors were almost unhurt. “The local farmers were magnificent. There was an unbelievable snowstorm, the worst this year, and the ambulances could not get to the wreckage, so the cleared a way.” Mr. Mav said the dead were being collected and taken to the school hall in the neighbouring town of Dornach. where they would be put in coffins.
Senior police officer Mr. Jules Huggenberg said it was unlikely any more survivors would be found. The nine mising are believed to be buried in or under the wreckage. Of the survivors, 20 were in hospital last night, 11 of them not seriously injured.
The women from Axbridge, Congresbury and Cheddar left their homes at 6.30 yesterday morning for the £16.50 trip from Bristol airport. The flight aboard the four- engine turbo-prop Vanguard had been postponed from last week. Twenty members of Bristol airport staff were aboard the aircraft, including two city corporation workers.
AT BRISTOL airport, relatives had to endure the hell of not knowing for more than ten hours. For the families who waited, the hours after the crash became one long nightmare of not knowing whether their wives and mothers were alive or dead. First reports at lunchtime said there were no dead. But as rescuers struggled through deep snow to reach the wreckage, it became clear that. there had been a huge death toll. And last night, ten hours later, people like 21-year-old Philip Batt, waiting at Bristol airport for news of nine members of his family, still did not know if there was any hope for them.
It was only at 10.30 that a partial list of survivors was issued by British charterers, Invicta Airlines. Six survivors were still unnamed. In the villages, they were saying :”‘We don’t even know which of our friends we have to mourn, And Detective Inspector John Aplin, on liaison duty at the airport, said: “People are waiting for news and one cannot give it to them. It is a difficult and sad situation.”
‘It’s all so uncertain’
Mr. Rodney of Cheddar, Payne, carried his 20- month-old son waiting for in his arms, news of his mother. All he could say was “She went this morning, smiling happily.” For the relatives of 14 of the lucky ones, the agony was not quite so prolonged. They learnt at 7 p.m. that they could stop worrying and go home. But for the rest it was a sombre vigil in the small, sad departure lounge at Bristol. They stood in knots of three or four, many red-eyed with grief. All we can do is wait. We know nothing,” said one.
Mrs. Mary Denman, wife of the Rev. Ronald Denman, vicar of Cheddar, said: “This is prolonging the agony. Brigadier Harold Black, of the Salvation Army, was at the airport chatting with relatives and friends. “No one has yet been told whether a relative or friend had died or survived. It is all so uncertain, he said. Mr. Harry Elton, chairman of Mendip Roundtable, said: “It is absolutely sickening and frustrating that we are getting no information at all about casualties, even appreciting that there may be difficulties at the Swiss end.’ They had set up an information centre at the Oak House restaurant in Axbridge