The Sun April 11, 1973.
VILLAGERS wept in the streets last night for the tragic women who took a day-trip to disaster the women who died in the crash of Vanguard Oscar Papa. They were housewives, mothers, relatives, friends. And the West Country villages they lived in are stricken with grief.
No one will forget the day a four-engine turboprop airliner flew the happy, laughing women away from Britain and then slammed into a Swiss mountainside in a driving snowstorm.
HUSBAND Eddie Hopkins was still waiting last night to learn if his wife Brenda had survived. He said: remember she came into the bedroom where I was still sleeping, gave me a kiss and said: I’ll see you tonight, darling.’ I remember saying back to her: hope so, love, you’ “
HUSBAND Jack 44 Wayled said: My wife and our two daughters were on the plane. I can only hope they are safe.” The aircraft carried six crew and 139 day-trippers, Only 39 people survived -and many of them were Injured. The other 106 died. And stunned folk in the Abridge and Cheddar areas of Somerset last night were trying to accept black truth:
Many of their women are dead.
For there were only 26 men aboard the ill-fated charter airliner. The rest were women from West Country organisations. There was a skittles team, Wives and mothers from the Women’s Institute. And they all paid £16.50 for a day trip Switzerland, to Basel, The plane left Bristol at 7.20 am. More than an hour later, it made a landing approach at Airport, Mulhouse Basel. But something went dreadfullly wrong. Radio contact with the airport was lost. The plane disappeared from the the radar screens. Minutes crashed into later, a wooded mountainside near village of Hochwald. The place fell on it’s back. many survivors hung by. their fastened belts upside-down. But because of the driving snow and wind it was two hours before rescuers could reach the crash scene.
Hochwald became ” village of the dead last night. The bodies crash victims were laid side by side in the school hall. Many were badly burned. Many were unrecognisable. They had been carried by rescuers for 45 minutes across felds and through woods in more than a foot of snow. Farmers women, and even young children waded through chest-deep snow to bring help. An unknown British priest climbed four miles across foothills from a main road. Eyewitnesses said his hands were cut raw in a temperature down a few degrees above freezing- because he had clawed his way up the rocky hillside. Back in Britain, in the tiny town of Axbridge, the rector, Anthony Martin, drew up a list of the missing passengers and opened an informa- tion centre at his rectory.
He said: The town is stunned by the disaster. People just cannot believe the horror of it all–they cannot believe many little children left without their mothers.’ Villagers prayed in the little Norman church on a hill in the town centre. There WAS some good news Mrs Shireen Hart. 22- year-old mother of three young sons and her cousin Mrs Pamela Churches, both of Axbridge, were reported to be safe.
The plane was owned by the charter firm Invicta Airways, based at Manston, Kent. Mr Robert Bevan, the airlines press spokesman, said: ‘ We are having great difficulty finding out exactly what has happened.”