Manchester Airport Tragedy

Manchester Airport Tragedy 22nd August 1985

It was 7.07am on August 22nd 1985. Flight 28 M, a British Airtours Boeing 737 carrying 131 passengers and 6 crew was routinely taking off from Manchester Airport. The plane was heading to Corfu. As the plane approached take-off speed, the Captain heard a “thump” from under the aircraft. Thinking the aircraft had burst a tyre he immediately aborted the take off and brought the plane to an emergency halt on a taxi way at the side of the runway. It was only then that the captain realised the “thump” was on of the engines was on fire, and fuel was now spilling from the port wing.

A light wind quickly caused the fire in the engine to combine with highly flammable aviation fuel, fanning it into a giant blaze. This blaze quickly engulfed the cabin, finding its way inside, creating toxic smoke and fumes along with the intense fire. A pre planned “Full Emergency” code for when aircraft were known or suspected to be in difficulty was implemented.

This meant that that the two rapid intervention Vehicles from Manchester Airport, one a “Pathfinder” foam tender, and the other a “Protector” foam tender, along with a apron vehicle and an ambulance was despatched. The Greater Manchester fire brigade control was also informed, and they would despatch four water tender ladders. Two appliances were from Wythenshawe, and one from Cheadle Hulme. The final appliance being sent from Cheshire fire brigades Wilmslow fire station. Also mobilised to the incident was an HP from Moss Side, a foam tender from Wythenshawe, and an emergency salvage tender from Stockport.

When the airport fire service reached the scene, they were confronted by a major fire that included the aircrafts engine and fuselage, along with a major fuel fire. In the midst of this fire the evacuation of the aircraft was taking place. Both of the rapid intervention vehicles mounted an attack on the fire using their foam monitors, this foam attack would then be supplemented using foam delivered from three other major foam tenders. Each of the airports rapid intervention vehicles also discharged their 25 Kg BCF extinguishers onto the running fuel fires.

Even though the evacuation of passengers and crew started the moment the aircraft came to a stop, many passengers remained trapped and dead within the fuselage. Firefighters from the airport, using breathing apparatus made several attempts to mount a search and rescue operation. This was soon assisted by firefighters from the GMC fire service, but it soon became apparent that no one now inside stood any chance of survival.

When the OIC of the first GMC attendance arrived, he realised just how serious the incident was, and immediately made pumps 6, as he knew they would be needed to set up a water relay to help quell the fire.

Even though pre planning of incidents like this had taken place and many joint exercises had taken place at the airport to train for this, this disaster resulted in the deaths of 53 passengers and 2 crew members. 48 of those that died, lost their lives as a result of smoke inhalation. 78 passengers and 4 crew members escaped. 15 of those that did escape had suffered serious injuries.

Below is a list of those that died on that tragic day.

Air Stewardesses:
  • Sharon Ford and Jacqueline Urbanski
  • Maurice, Brenda and Steven Almark.
  • John, Linda and Lisa Barker.
  • Rebecca Bates aged 9.
  • Raymond, Vera and Susan Beal.
  • Sarah Thomas.
  • Sarah, Barry.
  • Mavis Bennett.
  • David Bennison.
  • Christopher and Ann Brannigan.
  • Constance Buxton.
  • Philip Curbishley.
  • Elaine Dumbell.
  • David and Meryl Edwards.
  • Barbara Elliott.
  • Paul Forrester.
  • Mary Hardie.
  • Marjorie Hutchinson.
  • Alison Jones.
  • Yvonne Lane.
  • Rita Lawrence and daughter Joanne aged 15.
  • Anne Lee.
  • Brian Leitch.
  • Margaret Naden.
  • Norman and Joan Nind.
  • Leslie and Joyce Oliver.
  • Julie O’Neill.
  • John Proctor.
  • Amanda Redding.
  • David and Patricia Shaw.
  • Alfred and Eileen Stringer.
  • Norman and Michael Swinburn.
  • Harold Taylor.
  • Brian and Sheila Taylor.
  • Graham Wilson.