Pain of air disaster ‘will never go away’

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The brother of a Magheralin woman who died 25 years ago in the Kegworth air crash said his sister’s tragic death is something that will stay with them as the years pass by.

Gwynneth McConville was one of 47 people killed when a Belfast-bound Boeing 737 crashed into an embankment on the M1 at Kegworth in England on January 8, 1989.

Seventy-four of the 126 people on the flight were seriously injured.

Villagers near the site in Leicestershire will officially mark the air disaster today and prayers will be said at a Holy Communion service at the local St Andrews Church.

A weekly religious service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, where there is a memorial to the crash victims, will this evening be attended by survivors and victims’ families and will make special reference to the disaster.

Gwynneth’s brother Raymond Ringland said each day is difficult but added that today would be especially tough.

“I suppose it will be a day in our minds that will stick with us,” said the 59-year-old. “Every time you hear a plane overhead it comes back to you. We will never forget Gwynneth but we try to move on from what happened.”

Gwynneth, who was aged 32 at the time of her death, had lived in Magheralin with her husband Trevor.

The mother-of-two, originally from Ballyroney near Rathfriland, had three sisters and seven brothers and is remembered by her brother as a “bubbly, lively girl”.

She had accompanied Trevor, then managing director of Warne Surgical Products in Portadown, on a business trip and was travelling home a day early to be there for her sons going to school on the Monday.

In a twist of fate in recent years Raymond and his wife were on holiday when they got speaking to a fellow Northern Irishwoman who said she had been booked on the Sunday evening flight but, due to circumstances, went home earlier. Raymond recalled being flown over to identify his sister’s body after the crash, saying it “was not a nice experience”.

And while his wife had been deterred from flying for a long time after the crash Raymond said it had not changed his attitude to air travel.

The plane had developed a problem with one of the engines and an investigation later showed that when the trouble occurred the pilots had shut down the wrong engine before attempting to land at nearby East Midlands airport.