John McCullagh August 6, 2005
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It took months to persuade the aircraft crash survivor to re-enter the social scene and longer still before she could talk about her ordeal.

You remember the incident: it was a dozen years ago and among the survivors was Rita McGrath, mother of our reader Paddy. The British Airways flight to Ireland was a normal scheduled flight and for the greater part of the journey things were relaxed. Indeed some passengers had been issued with those ‘how-well-are-we-serving-you?’ questionnaires. Clients were unaware of anything wrong though an electrical fault had developed in one engine. Unfortunately approaching landing, the perfectly good engine was switched off in error. The plane went into a dive from which it did not recover.

Our traumatised survivor described those vital minutes after she regained consciousness and opened her eyes.

‘I was suspended upside down in darkness, somewhere close to the tail of the broken plane. There was an eerie silence: no audible moans or screams. There was a strange smell – which I took to be a mixture of burning rubber and spilled diesel fuel.

I struck the buckle of my seat-belt and at once fell in a heap on the seat below. I was quite calm: I had no broken bones and I felt sure I could escape from the wreckage without help.

There was a bank of earth just outside and on it was stretched out the dark figure of a man. He seemed uninjured too but he kept complaining. To this day I remember his words, expressed loudly in a Belfast accent.

‘I need to fill out a new questionnaire.  I’m changing my answers!’


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