Apology for victims of Manchester air disaster - 30 years later - shows how ‘society has changed’, says Sheffield father

William and Linda Beckett lost their daughter Sarah in the Manchester air disaster 30 years ago. Picture: Andrew Roe
William and Linda Beckett lost their daughter Sarah in the Manchester air disaster 30 years ago. Picture: Andrew Roe

The father of a Sheffield teenager killed in the Manchester air disaster 30 years ago said a long-awaited apology showed how ‘society had changed.’

William Beckett spoke after attending a memorial event at the airport yesterday with survivors from the tragedy and families of the 53 who died when a blaze broke out in the engine of a British Airtours jet that had been due to fly to Corfu on August 22, 1985.

Ten people from Sheffield died. and most victims died as a result of inhaling toxic smoke, while many could not escape because of the layout of the seats and narrow widths of the exits.

Manchester airport managing director Ken O’Toole said ‘we deeply regret the loss of life from this tragic event’ at the memorial yesterday and British Airways said the apology was ‘for their loss’ and the ‘memories they have had to live with over the past 30 years.’

Mr Beckett, whose 18-year-old daughter Sarah died in the fire and who has campaigned for improved safety standards since the disaster with wife Linda, said today: “It was quite moving because we only found out about the apology yesterday morning shortly before the service, at the moment he told the gathered survivors and families there was a sharp intake of breath and then applause that at last we are achieving something we always wanted to achieve.

“It reflects a changed society from 30 years ago.”

It has been confirmed that a new memorial will now be created at the airport.

The other Sheffield victims were couple Thomas and Sarah Bennett, aged 69 and 68, from Norfolk Park, their son Barry, 46, and his wife Mavis, 47.

Mother and daughter Rita and Joanne Lawrence, aged 38 and 15, from Frecheville, also died, while Rita’s husband John and son Chris survived.

Husband and wife David and Patricia Shaw, aged 46 and 45, from Intake, were killed, as was Anne Lee, 49, from Nether Edge.

Also killed was air stewardess Sharon Ford, 23 from Chesterfield, who was posthumously awarded a Queen’s Gallantry Medal for her actions in attempting to save lives.

Survivors and the relatives of those who died eventually successfully sued US aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

The disaster led to a host of changes in air safety procedures.