“This cannot be put into words”.

“This cannot be put into words”.

Publiziert 10. April 2023, 19:29 Read the online story click here

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the Hochwald air disaster. Relatives of the 108 British victims also attended the memorial service.

Also Hansruedi Vögtli (89), who was the first to arrive at the accident site.

Easter Monday, mild temperature, blue sky. But dark memories hang over Hochwald in Solothurn. It is the 50th anniversary of the tragic plane crash. At this very spot in the forest, where the participants of the memorial service are gathering, a British passenger plane carrying 145 people crashed. 108 people died, 37 survived.

Hansruedi Vögtli experienced it all: “It’s been 50 years now, and every year at quarter past nine I’m here, where I am now. An event like that keeps you busy for the rest of your life.” On this day, the spot is covered with fresh flowers, an English and a British flag are waving in the wind, and relatives repeatedly commemorate the deceased in the presence of Cantonal Councillor Remo Ankli, the British Ambassador James Squire and the Director of Euro-Airport Matthias Suhr. Brass music can be heard in the background, depressed silence and reverent words.

“Survivors warmed up with us”.

Hansruedi Vögtli, former fire brigade commander
Vögtli was the first to arrive at the scene of the accident when it happened. The then commander of the local fire brigade remembers: “I was just about to leave with my wife when we heard a low-flying aircraft.” He then inquired at the Basel fire station whether an aircraft was missing. “If so, it probably crashed,” he said on the phone. But the answer from the airport was: “No.”

Only about twenty minutes later did they say that an aircraft was missing after all. Vögtli then immediately alerted the fire brigade and started a search. By the time the emergency services arrived, seven to eight people had already managed to free themselves. “The surviving passengers then ran to our home and warmed up in the kitchen and living room.”

“Here is part of my family”

It is not the first time the 89-year-old has told this story. He says he is still approached and quizzed about the event by his son’s friends, and on memorial days like this Monday, members of the media still interview him five decades later. Doesn’t that get on your nerves? Having to talk about it all the time? “No,” he says. But you can see the strain on his face. “When you’ve experienced something like that, you can’t describe those feelings, you can’t put that into words.”

For Sue Cooke, an Englishwoman, this place here in Switzerland also triggers many feelings. The day of the accident was a day when her life suddenly changed forever. “When I visit the place here, it still triggers the same emotions in me as it did all those years ago. You know, life hasn’t been the same since.” Cooke lost eleven family members in the disaster. “It’s my fortieth visit to this place. This anniversary brings back a lot of memories. But it feels right to be here. Because there is a part of my family here.”

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