New TV documentary recalls Tuskar Rock plane crash, 54 years on

In documentary The Tuskar Rock Tragedy on RTÉ1 on Monday, (October 10) at 9.35pm, family and friends of those onboard tell their story of loss and the theories of what happened that fateful day.
New TV documentary recalls Tuskar Rock plane crash, 54 years on

An Aer Lingus Viscount aircraft, the same type of plane which crashed on March 24, 1968 at Tuskar Rock

ON Sunday, March 24, 1968, an Aer Lingus plane left Cork Airport just after 10.30am, carrying 61 passengers and crew.

Twenty-five minutes into its short journey to Heathrow, it sent a distress message to air traffic control: “12,000 feet descending, spinning rapidly”.

The plane crashed into the sea just off the Tuskar Rock lighthouse, off the Wexford coast, and all 61 passengers and crew were killed. Just 14 of the bodies were recovered.

In documentary The Tuskar Rock Tragedy on RTÉ1 on Monday, (October 10) at 9.35pm, family and friends of those onboard tell their story of loss and the theories of what happened that fateful day.

Flight 712 was Ireland’s worst crash in aviation history, and this tells the story of the events and the ripple effect of one afternoon 54 years ago, when hundreds of people’s lives were changed forever.

Despite the exact cause of the crash of the 11-year-old Vickers Viscount plane remaining unknown, mystery and speculation have surrounded it ever since.

Through the voices of victims’ families, aircraft experts and investigators, the programme will revisit a tragedy that shook the entire nation.

As well as Irish passengers, there were also people from the US, the UK, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden on board.

Fr Eddie Hegarty, who was Ballyphehane parish priest at the time, and a group of his parishioners were among the dead.

When a 50th anniversary Mass was held to mark the disaster in Cork in 2018, Fr Michael Murphy, parish priest in Ballyphehane and Cork Airport chaplain, said it was still a sensitive subject in the area.

“It horrifies to this day, people will still talk about it,” he said. “What is frightening is that no-one knows what happened. There is still a lot of interest in it and it is a sore subject.”

One theory was that the plane collided with something or was struck in mid-air, and two investigations produced differing reports. Both pilots on board were highly experienced, with thousands of flying hours between them.

When the plane, called the St Phelim went into its spiral dive, it lost height at a rate of 120 feet per second, hitting the sea some 100 seconds later at almost precisely 11am, 1.7 nautical miles due east of Tuskar Rock.

Several people on shore, at various points, heard the plane hit the sea. They spoke of sounds like “a very sharp roll of thunder”, “a very loud whoosh”, “a rumbling sound” and a noise “like water running off rocks”.

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