How only seven perished was 'a miracle' when plane crashed into Blackpool Pontins chalets 50 years ago

The Pontins Holiday Camp at Blackpool was the scene of an horrific plane accident in 1972, but the disaster could have been much worse.

By Claire Lark
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 2:17 pm

The devastating incident happened 50 years ago and the aftermath was captured by a Gazette photographer. Seven people on board the aircraft tragically died, but incredibly and by somewhat of a miracle - all the camp’s 2,500 holidaymakers escaped unscathed. The June 29 flight was one of many which used to run between the Fylde and Munich, carrying flight technicians working on the multi-role-combat-aircraft. The German’s flight had been diverted to Blackpool, but they spent the day at Warton, on the eve of a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Our archive photographs show the trail of destruction left by the incident and reveal how it was miraculous the death toll was not even higher. The twin engine executive jet had skidded off the runway - resulting in a broken landing lamp, a 4ft high bank of churned-up earth, smashed perimeter fence, twisted railway line, and 10 demolished chalets. It threw concrete blocks into the air like toy bricks and fuel exploded destroying more chalets. Tyre brake marks at the end of the runway indicated the pilot had tried to stop the aircraft. Two staff from the holiday camp had a lucky escape when a burning fuel rank crashed past them.

On the putting green, where the jet came to rest, was a large mass of scorched grass, tangled wires of boxes of instruments. Lumps of the aircraft’s skin’ were scattered among the chalets debris and the jet’s nose wheel lay at the side of the rail line. The fatalities were confined to the jet - which had been carrying eight people - two crew and six passengers.The only survivor was pulled clear of the wreckage by one of the young chefs at the camp - assisted by England’s number one table tennis player, Denis Neale, who had been playing exhibition matches at the camp.

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Rescue workers carry a body from the scene

John Kilburn - who spent more than three decades guiding planes in and out of Blackpool, in the air traffic control tower - was not on duty on the day of the crash, but remembered it well.He said: “Although I was not on duty at the time, I happened to be in my back garden, idly watching this aircraft. “All of a sudden, there was a marked reduction in engine noise and instinctively I knew it was in trouble.

Fred Pontin, the holiday camp chief, flew from Bournemouth and toured the site with senior police officers. He was believed to be arranging compensation for those who had lost clothes and valuables in the disaster. When he arrived he said at the camp he said he was very relieved to find damage not severe as he had expected. "I chartered an aircraft and flew up straight away. I was very relieved that the damage which would have been done did not materialise. "There’s no much petrol around the place that the whole lot could have gone up in flames.

Mr Pontin added that the people whose chalets were demolished had been found alternative accommodation. "The holiday has gone on just the same for most of the people. They appear to be having a great time despite what happened.”

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A chunk of aircraft wreckage lies among the chalets
Ambulancemen wait with a trolley stretcher to recover bodies as firemen damp down the flames
How the Gazette reported the Pontins air disaster of 1972
Firemen search among the smoking wreckage