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Kegworth air disaster

The Kegworth Air Disaster occured on January 8, 1989, when British Midland Flight 92, a Boeing 737-400, G-OBME owned by British Midland crashed onto the embankment of the M1 motorway, short of the runway of East Midlands airport, Leicestershire, close to the village of Kegworth.

47 of the 118 passengers lost their lives (39 at the scene, 8 later). All eight of the flight crew survived the accident. Of the 79 survivors, 5 had minor injuries and 74 were seriously injured. Surprisingly, no one on the motorway was hurt (and no vehicles damaged).

The aircraft was on a scheduled flight from Heathrow airport to Belfast in Northern Ireland, the attempted unscheduled landing at East Midlands being due to an in-flight emergency which had occurred.

After take-off from Heathrow, the aircraft was climbing through 28,000 feet when there was a failure of the no.1 engine due to a turbine blade detachment. Subsequently, the crew misidentified the failed engine and shut down the correctly functioning no. 2 engine. With little power, the aircraft did not have the available range to reach the emergency destination airport, and hit the ground short of the runway while attempting to land. The damaged no. 1 engine continued to run and provided some power, but because the crew were unaware that they had shut down the wrong engine, did not appreciate that they were flying on the single, damaged engine. The aircraft would otherwise have been capable of flying safely to the diversion airport on one engine.

After the initial engine failure, the crew were aware of a smoke smell and abnormal vibration, as well as numerous cockpit warnings. It is unclear what led the pilots to identify the failed engine as no. 2, and they had no way to visually check the engines from the cockpit. Several cabin staff and passengers did notice that the no. 1 engine was on fire, but this information was not passed to the flight crew. When the pilots shut down the no. 2 engine, the vibration and smoke smell ceased immediately, which confirmed in their minds that they had dealt with the problem. As it turned out, this was simply a fateful coincidence.

Evaluation of the injuries sustained led to considerable improvements in aircraft safety and emergency instructions for passengers. The official report into the disaster made 31 safety recommendations.

There is a memorial to "those who died, those who were injured and those who took part in the rescue operation", in the village cemetery in nearby Kegworth, together with a garden made using soil from the crash site.

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