For Des McLindon, August 1968 is “just a haze”. Yet as his mind spools back half a century, there are pictures, pieces of memory of a particular day, which emerge from that haze. It was the day he learned of the plane crash in Germany that claimed his sister’s life.
Friday, August 9 was the day in question. Maureen, his 20-year-old sibling, a student nurse at Liverpool’s Broadgreen Hospital, had departed from Heathrow airport that morning on a flight bound for Innsbruck. It was her first-ever flight and she was travelling with her cousin, Mary Fletcher, and six fellow members of the Liverpool Catholic Ramblers’ Association, all looking forward to a walking holiday in Austria.
“I was working in Skelmersdale as a joiner, building a new town up there,” remembers Des, now 77, sitting in his home in the Wavertree district of Liverpool. “I got my lift home, jumped on a bus to Penny Lane and then came down the road. My wife, Veronica, opened the door and said: ‘There’s been an air crash, I think it’s your Maureen’s.’ The father of another of the girls, Jean Baxter, who lived just around the corner, had been down and told Veronica he’d heard something about a plane crash. ‘Oh, he doesn’t know what he’s on about,’ I said, ‘it couldn’t be our Maureen.’ ”
Tragically, it was. Her flight, British Eagle EA802, had crashed into a motorway embankment between Munich and Nuremberg shortly after 2pm local time following an electrical failure. All 48 people on board lost their lives. Maureen was buried alongside Jean Baxter, a teacher and friend from Our Lady of
Good Help parish.
“The thing about it, she’s still 20, she will always be 20,” says Des’s brother, Peter McLindon, of their sister. It was Peter who had seen Maureen off the night before, leaving her at a Ramblers’ gathering on Hope Street in Liverpool city centre before the party’s overnight train journey to London. “You know how it is, brother and sister – ‘Bye,’ ” he says. He had planned to join the group a few days later, but: “We’d tried to book the flight and we couldn’t get it.”
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