There will be a sombre mood in Rosslare Harbour on Saturday (March 24) to commemorate the loss 50 years ago of the Aer Lingus Viscount airliner St Phelim with 61 people on board.
The aircraft crashed into the sea off Tuskar Rock shortly after noon on March 24, 1968, during a flight from Cork to London. In their last message the crew said the aircraft was at 12,000 feet, descending and spinning rapidly. There were no survivors and only 14 bodies were recovered from the sea following the crash, the worst in Irish aviation and the cause of which has never been established.
The passengers and crew were from Ireland, Belgium, Britain, Holland, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. One of the four crew members, air hostess Anne Kelly was from Wexford. Sean Boyce, media relations person with the Rosslare Harbour-based committee formed to arrange and co-ordinate the commemoration, said a lot of relatives of the victims were expected to attend the ceremonies, which are due to begin at 11 a.m. with a flotilla of vessels, led by the LE Eithne heading from the harbour to the place off Tuskar Rock where the aircraft crashed into the sea.
The flotilla will include vessels from the Irish Coast Guard, the RNLI, and some local fishing boats, with a wreath-laying due to take at sea. Following this, at 2.30 p.m. there will be a land-based public commemoration at the Rosslare Harbour Memorial Park attended by relatives of the victims, Swiss and Belgium diplomats, Minister Paul Kehoe, representing the government, Wexford councillors, including the Mayor Cllr Jim Moore, members of the Irish Airline Pilots Association, representatives from Aer Lingus, the coast guard, Irish Lights and the Naval Service.
The St Phelim 50th Anniversary Committee Chairman, Leo Coy, said it is important that we remember and continue to pay tribute to everybody involved in something that changed so many lives forever. 'Obviously for the relatives of the 61 people that died, life was never the same again, but for all of the rescue services and the local men and women who opened up their hearts and their homes to assist in whatever way they could, they can never forget the sadness that permeated this corner of Ireland,' he said.