It’s an anniversary that many would rather forget, but plans are in place to erect a permanent memorial to the worst event in the history of aviation in the Southern Hemisphere.
Yesterday (Monday 28 November 2016) was the 37th anniversary of the Mt Erebus air accident – New Zealand’s worst civil disaster. The crash of the Air New Zealand DC-10, flight TE901, into Mt Erebus on a sightseeing flight over Antarctica on 28 November 1979 killed 257 people.
The crash was the fourth-worst aviation disaster in the world at the time. It is still the worst aviation accident in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Air New Zealand DC-10-30 that was destroyed when it flew into Mt Erebus in Artarctica in 1979. Photo taken at London Heathrow Airport in 1977.
A voluntary advisory group, with Lady June Hillary (Sir Edmund Hillary’s widow) as patron, is gathering support for memorial, bearing the names of all the victims, to be ready by the 40th anniversary in November 2019. The concept is to create a special place for families affected by the tragedy, to gather for reflection, prayer and contemplation.
As well as New Zealanders, the doomed flight was carrying other nationalities, including citizens of Australia (2), Canada (2), France (1), Japan (24), Switzerland (2), United Kingdom (5) and the United States (22).
“The Mt Erebus accident with 257 fatalities – 237 passengers and 20 crew – is still New Zealand’s worst civil disaster,” said New Zealand’s national memorial spokesperson, aviation chaplain and historian, Rev. Dr Richard Waugh QSM, of Auckland.
“New Zealand as a nation continues to be profoundly affected by the tragedy. It is a pastoral and public oversight that nothing has yet been done to establish a national memorial to the Mt Erebus accident victims, especially for the many families involved. It is now time to put the controversy of the accident to one side, and focus on a national memorial to those who died; a special place for families and for all New Zealanders to remember.
Fuselage of the DC-10 that crashed in 1979 into Mount Erebus, Antarctica. Picture taken 25 years after the crash.
“Surviving spouses, siblings, and children of the victims are aging and many are asking for a national memorial to the accident, in time for the 40th anniversary. While some people have suggested we wait until the 50th anniversary in 2029, our advisory committee’s view is that waiting longer would be uncaring and insensitive to so many older relatives.”
A website has been set up: www.erebusnationalmemorial.nz
Edited by Peter Needham