Only seven deaths when plane crashed into Blackpool holiday camp

Ambulancemen wait with a trolley stretcher to recover bodies as firemen damp down the flames
Ambulancemen wait with a trolley stretcher to recover bodies as firemen damp down the flames
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The word miracle is probably used a lot more than it should be. But in this case, it truly was a miracle not more people were killed or injured, after an executive jet burst into flames and ploughed into chalets on Pontins Holiday Camp.

The devastating accident happened just over 46 years ago and the aftermath was captured by a Gazette photographer.

A chunk of aircraft wreckage wreckage lies among the chalets.

A chunk of aircraft wreckage wreckage lies among the chalets.

Seven people on-board the aircraft died, but incredibly, all the camp’s 2,500 holidaymakers escaped unscathed.

The June 29, 1972 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.

Rescue workers carry a body from the scene

Rescue workers carry a body from the scene

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.

Fuel exploded – destroying more chalets.

Investigators believed railway lines, which the jet hit, helped to lessen the impact – preventing the stricken plane from ploughing through more holiday 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.

The largest remaining part of the jet was the tailplane.

Lumps of the aircraft’s ‘skin’ were scattered among the chalets debris.

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.

Fred Pontin, the holiday camp chief, flew from Bournemouth to visit the site.

He praised the firefighters for keeping the blaze at bay.

He said: “There was so much petrol, the whole lot could have gone up in flames.”

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 detailed his memories of the incident in his book, Observations From The Tower.

He lived just a stone’s throw away from the airport at the time.

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.

“Sure enough, seconds after it disappeared from view, there was a loud explosion, followed by a huge pall of black smoke.”

In our archive pictures, the staggering aftermath of the crash can be seen.

Ambulancemen are pictured waiting with a trolley stretcher, to recover bodies, as the fire fighters damp down the flames.

A chunk of aircraft wreckage is shown lying among the chalets – showing just how miraculous an escape so many holidaymakers had that day.

And rescue workers are pictured carrying a body from the scene.