Northern Ireland news

Family and friends of 61 people killed in one of Ireland's worst air crashes to gather in Co Wexford tomorrow(SAT) to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster

A huge sea and air search took place after Aer Lingus fight 712 plunged into the sea off Tuskar Rock, Co Wexford 50 years ago. Photo: RTE
Marie Louise McConville

Relatives of 61 people killed in one of Ireland's worst air crashes will gather in Co Wexford today to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster.

A total of 57 passengers and four crew were killed on Sunday, March 24 1968 when the Aer Lingus flight crashed en route from Cork to London.

The aircraft, a Vickers Viscount 803 named `St Phelim', crashed into the sea off Tuskar Rock in Co Wexford.

Flight 712 had taken off at around 10.30am and had initially proceeded normally however a short time later a communication was received which stated "12,000ft descending spinning rapidly".

Following this, there was no further communication with the aircraft.

At 11.30am, a full alert was declared and by 12.36pm, the first reports of wreckage had been received.

When aircraft and ships resumed the search the next day, wreckage was sighted and bodies recovered.

However, of the 61 people on board, only 14 remains were recovered.

Mystery continues to surround why the air craft plunged into the sea.

A 2002 report commissioned by the Irish government discounted a long-held theory that the Viscount aircraft had been struck by a British missile.

Three international experts said they believed the crash had possibly been caused by structural failure, corrosion or a bird strike.

However, victims' families have said the full facts would only be known when all the flight and ship logs recording the aircraft's journey and the recovery operation were made public.

Family and friends of the victims will gather today for a 50th anniversary commemoration at Rosslare, where the small number of bodies were brought ashore. During the event, a wreath laying ceremony will take place.

Among those who lost a loved one was Cobh man, Jerome McCormick, whose 35-year-old brother, Neil was on board Flight 712.

The Textile consultant, who had played rugby for Munster, had been en route to Switzerland for a job interview when he lost his life.

Jerome McCormick, whose brother's remains were never recovered, recalls there was a Mass in the community in the aftermath of the air disaster.

Aged 20 at the time, Mr McCormick said following the Mass, "we began to wonder about the crash".

"It was suspicious," he said.

"There was no baggage found, there is always baggage found and only 14 bodies out of 61".

Mr McCormick said the time had come for families of those killed in the air crash to be told the truth about what happened.

"We were told everything would come out in the 30 years after," he said.

"Not a single syllable came out.

"The people in charge on the day, they're all gone and the information is obviously here after them. The information has to be found".

Mr McCormick said he had already started gathering information and had "a certain amount done".

"I am not anxious to add any further hurt with regards to this. I'm just asking a plan, simple question," he said.

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