BBC News Report 10 April 2023
A woman who lost five relatives in a plane crash in Switzerland said the news initially felt “like a bad dream”.
Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the crash that killed 108 people, mainly women, who were looking forward to a day of sightseeing in Basel. Invicta Airlines Flight 435 left Bristol in good weather but crashed in a snowstorm in the Swiss city.
Services of remembrance will be held at churches in Congresbury, Wrington, Axbridge and Cheddar. Jacki Sutton, from Congresbury, lost her mum and her young sister in the crash, as well as her aunt, uncle and one of her cousins, who lived next door.
She was 18 years old at the time and her sister Hazel was nine years old. She said: “I remember waving out of the window to my little sister to say goodbye, have a great time. She was very excited about the trip. “But then I also remember the shock of being at home and getting a message at the door to say there’d been a plane crash.”
The plane crashed after two unsuccessful landing attempts, brushing trees and hitting a nearby hillside, breaking into pieces.
‘Hard to comprehend’
Ms Sutton added: “At first we were told everyone was alright, but then as information started to come through, things looked much worse. We didn’t know if any of our family had survived.
“A list of survivors was published on TV but when my other relatives flew out to Switzerland they found out that the lists had been muddled, and my mum and sister had died.
“It was a bit like a bad dream at first, there were just so many people in our family who’d been killed, and in the village as well, that it was hard to comprehend.”
A special garden of 20 roses has been planted in St Andrew’s in Congresbury – one for each person from the village killed in the crash.
An oak tree has also been planted at St Andrew’s in Cheddar and memorial benches will be dedicated too. Ms Sutton helped to organise the rose garden, along with others, and has also helped create a website dedicated to the accident. She said she wanted the villagers involved to be remembered.
“People often know that something happened but they don’t know the whole story, and we’ve put our own personal accounts on the website too, just to remind everybody,” she said.
The disaster had a huge impact across the West Country, one that is still being felt today. A whole generation was affected. Scores of men lost their wives, and more than 40 children lost mothers. Seventeen men on the trip, including both pilots and two of the crew, died too.
The Reverend Stuart Burns, rector at St Andrew’s church in Cheddar, said marking the 50th anniversary was a significant occasion.
He said: “When death is sudden and violent, it is very hard to come to terms with.
“It’s particularly important to have these milestone events where we help people to process it.”
An inquiry into the crash found the most probable cause was a loss of orientation by the crew as they relied on instruments and navigational aids. Other contributing factors included defective equipment, which made navigation more difficult.