Tragic coincidence on Mt Erebus anniversary

By Elizabeth Binning

The timing of the Airbus crash in France on the 29th anniversary of the Erebus disaster is a tragic coincidence, say the guardians of a memorial garden for crew killed in the Antarctic disaster.

Two hundred and thirty-seven passengers and 20 Air NZ crew were killed when Flight 901 crashed on Mt Erebus on November 28, 1979.

Yesterday, as many people awoke with thoughts about the anniversary of the country's worst air disaster, news was filtering in of the new tragedy, which claimed the lives of five New Zealanders and two Germans.

Former flight attendant Graham Clark and his wife, Raewyn, helped to establish an Erebus Crew Memorial near Auckland Airport. Mr Clark said it was coincidental and sad that the French crash happened on the Erebus anniversary.

"All we are really taking in at this stage is just how shocked and sad we are that another tragedy should occur. It's really, really sad."

Mr Clark said the fact that a crash had again happened abroad made it even more difficult for the loved ones waiting for news in New Zealand.

The wider Air NZ crew family and many people within the aviation industry would know the victims well.

Mrs Clark, who was instrumental in establishing support systems for the families of Erebus crew, said she was just thinking about the memorial garden and plans for the 30th anniversary next year when she heard about the the latest tragedy.

Mrs Clark said the level of involvement in supporting the newly effected families would depend on what was required.

"I think we need to wait a little while and just give the families time to come to terms with what has happened. We don't know anything about the crew, if they are married or whether they have got families. I really think it might be best just to give them time.

"I think it goes without saying that Air NZ know that if we can do anything to help work through that terrible phase then we are available."

Mrs Clark urged people not to read too much into the timing of both tragedies.

"I really don't know what to make of it. It's just a terrible tragedy. I wouldn't want people to read into it in anyway whatsoever. It would be purely coincidental that it has turned out the way it has on the same day [as Erebus]. When people start reading into things, I don't think that is appropriate.

"It's just a terrible accident.

Mr and Mrs Clark scattered fresh petals around the Erebus memorial yesterday afternoon at the same time as many Air NZ staff members were delivering bouquets. They did so thinking of victims of both tragedies.

- NZ Herald

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