Basle air disaster: Widower recalls ‘shattering’ crash on 45th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 April 2018

Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport.

Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport.

Archant

A father who lost his wife in a plane crash which killed more than 100 people has ‘cried his tears’ for his lost loved one, 45 years on.

Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport. Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport.

The Invicta Airlines flight 435 left Bristol Airport with more than 140 passengers and crew members on April 10, 1973 travelling to Switzerland.

Mothers from Axbridge, Cheddar, Congresbury and Wrington were on the flight, which was organised by Unicorn Travel, to enjoy a shopping trip.

On its third approach to Basle-Mulhouse Airport, the plane hit a fir tree with its wing tip and crashed into snow-covered hills – killing 108 people.

There were just 37 survivors.

Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport. Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport.

Now, 45 years since the accident, the Mercury spoke to John Chard, aged 77 from Axbridge, the husband of Diane who was sadly killed in the accident when she was 28 years old.

The couple had three children together, who were all under five at the time, and had been married for four years.

He said: “I stayed at home with our children when Diane set off for her trip.

“I was shaving sheep – I used to work on a farm – when I heard about the crash on the radio.

Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport. Crash victims returning from Switzerland at Bristol Airport.

“No-one knew who died and who had survived. We were flown to Switzerland to identify our loved ones and I had to remember what she was wearing in order for them to narrow her down.

“When they did, I had to go in and identify her. There were no visible injuries other than a bruise on her cheek.

“It was horrendous and was very hard to come to terms with.”

John said he has ‘finished crying his tears’ about the accident and has come to terms of what happened years ago, but still thinks about what happened on anniversaries of the crash.

Relatives of crash victims at Bristol Airport leaving for Switzerland. Relatives of crash victims at Bristol Airport leaving for Switzerland.

At the time of the accident, Weston’s MP Jerry Wiggin described it as a ‘disaster for the area’ while North Somerset MP Paul Dean said it was a ‘shattering tragedy’.

The Weston Mercury and Somerset Herald reported on April 13, 1973 the plane crashed upside down and broke in half, with survivors left hanging upside down by their seatbelts.

Doctors, ambulances and nurses struggled to get to the crash site due to the thick snowfall, leaving survivors waiting two hours to be rescued.

More than 60 passengers were from Axbridge and 25 were from Cheddar.

Axbridge Town, residents and press. Axbridge Town, residents and press.

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