Kiwi hero of 1976 hijacking dies

By Caroline King of The Star

Colin Hardie passed away earlier this week. Photo / File
Colin Hardie passed away earlier this week. Photo / File

A former general manager of the Christchurch Star who risked his life during the deadly Entebbe hijacking in the mid 1970s has died.

Colin Hardie passed away on Monday at the Ngaio Marsh Retirement Village aged 91.

Mr Hardie and his wife Nola were among the 248 passengers and 12 crew on board the Air France airbus that was hijacked shortly after it took off from Athens, Greece on June 27, 1976.

The flight was due to go to Paris but the four hijackers from two terrorist groups - the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and External Operations and the German Revolutionary Cells - diverted the flight to Benghazi, Libya.

There it was held on the ground for refuelling for seven hours during which time a female hostage, who pretended to be having a miscarriage, was released before the plane departed to Entebbe Airport, Uganda.

There they were joined by more hijackers and demanded the release of 40 Palestinians held in Israel and 13 other detainees imprisoned in Kenya, France, Switzerland, and West Germany.

If these demands were not met, they threatened to kill hostages on July 1.

Journalist Bruce McDougall, who worked for The Star in 1976, said in an article about stoic Cantabrians following the February earthquake: "Hardie risked his life by secretly writing details of the terrifying conditions inside the jet down his arm, for an exclusive story in The Star.

"That Cantabrian spirit will get this now earthquake-stricken city through its darkest days."

The hijackers held the passengers hostage for a week in the transit hall of Entebbe Airport. Some hostages were released, but 106 remained captive.

On July 1 the Israeli government offered to negotiate with the hijackers in order to extend the deadline to July 4.

On the new deadline the Israeli forces raided the airport terminal. Three hostages were shot and died in the crossfire, 10 were wounded.

The funeral for Mr Hardie, who worked at The Star for more than 25 years, is to be held today.

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