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Flying is still tough for me says Kegworth survivor Leslie Bloomer

Flowers surround a memorial near St Andrew's Church, Kegworth. Picture by Aaron Chown, Press Association 
Josh Payne, Press Association

A survivor of the Kegworth air disaster has said he did not know whether he was alive or dead in the moments after the crash.

Leslie Bloomer told the Press Association he was not even supposed to be on the British Midland Boeing 737 travelling to Belfast, which took off from Heathrow just before 8pm on January 8 1989.

The 57-year-old, from Killylea in Co Armagh, had visited a boat show in London with two friends, with one suggesting they got an earlier flight home after arriving at the airport three hours early.

Before travelling to Tuesday's memorial service marking 30 years since the tragedy, Mr Bloomer said he was shaking before his flight from Northern Ireland took off and admitted flying was "still tough for me".

Speaking after the commemoration, he said: "I know this morning, when I got on the plane in Belfast, and when it got on to the runway - if they'd have opened the door and said 'Do you want to get out?', I'd have got out.

"I was sitting there just shaking. Flying is still tough for me but I'm very glad to come here.

"I've met people that I haven't seen for 20 odd years. To meet nurses, ambulance crews, the fire service – it's brilliant. And to see the way people here put this on and how it impacted this village."

Read More: Kegworth disaster families and survivors mark 30 years since plane crash

Speaking of the events leading up to the flight, Mr Bloomer said: "We shouldn't even have been on that plane, we were booked on the 9.20pm plane but my friend said to me ... 'We're going to be here for another three hours, I wonder if we could get an earlier flight home?'

"There was room on the 7.20pm so we jumped on it.

"Another thing, when I got on the plane this morning I was sitting on the same row of seats as I was sitting on that night. It's strange the way you think of things like that."

Reflecting on the incident itself, Mr Bloomer said: "The left-hand engine kept putting out small sparks, small flames. It didn't feel good.

"I actually had a flashback at the weekend of the last 10 seconds or so before it hit the ground and I could imagine the pilot sitting there trying to steer it and then the thud on the ground.

"When the plane stopped moving I was sitting there and, for a second or two, I wasn't sure whether I was dead or alive actually.

"I saw my friend to the right, he was unconscious, and my other friend wasn't in good shape either. I was trapped with my legs under the seat."

Describing how he felt during the church service, Mr Bloomer said: "It was very emotional when they started to read the names. The first and second names read out, I knew those people from back home.

"I didn't know they were on the plane, I hadn't seen them at the departure lounge at Heathrow, I hadn't seen them on the plane.

"I remember when I found out they were killed on the plane, and when they were read out today, I could barely hold the tears back.

"Coming up here for this service I started to think about the plane crash a lot, and if I go on holidays, once I get on to the plane, taking off gets me and landing gets me."

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