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NZ’s worst disaster 38 years on

Mt. Erebus Air Accident; NZ’s worst disaster 38 years on: Update on National Memorial for the 40thanniversary of the Crash

Next Tuesday - 28th November 2017 - will be the 38th anniversary of New Zealand’s worst peacetime disaster - the accident of Air New Zealand McDonnell Douglas DC-10 ZK-NZP, Flight TE901, on the slopes of Antarctica’s Mt. Erebus. With 257 fatalities - 237 passengers and 20 crew - it is still the Southern Hemisphere’s worst aviation accident.

A voluntary group, with Lady June Hillary as Patron and Rev Dr Richard Waugh QSM as spokesman, are advocating for one officialErebus National Memorial. There is presently no public memorial in New Zealand for the accident where all 257 names are together.

The group, which includes Erebus families, is asking for the national memorial to be ready for the 40th anniversary in November 2019, and for it to be a special place for the families affected by the tragedy, and for all New Zealanders, to remember the accident.See: www.erebusnationalmemorial.nz

Dr Waugh says, “New Zealand as a nation continues to be profoundly affected by the Erebus tragedy and it is a pastoral and civic oversight that nothing has been done to establish a national memorial to the Mt. Erebus accident victims and especially for the hundreds of families involved. We have been pleased to work with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, but progress has unfortunately been very slow. ”

Erebus families’ representative David Allan lost both parents and a teenage sister in the accident. He comments, “The excuses and the procrastination are extremely frustrating. We have been ignored, resulting in a lack of any tangible progress over much of this year. It is embarrassing for the Erebus families and the procrastination can only be described as appalling.”

Dr Waugh adds, “Our advisory group is in touch with many Erebus families including surviving spouses, siblings and other close family, many of whom are now in their 70s and 80s. They are impatient for an official national memorial to the air accident. Did the Government tell the Pike River families and the families of those who died in the Canterbury earthquakes to wait 30 or 40 years before any memorial? Of course not. It is now appropriate for the new Government to help the Erebus families in their ongoing grief, and to create an elegant and attractive place where all 257 names can be honoured, and where New Zealand as a nation can remember our worst civil disaster.”

Considering the magnitude of the Mt. Erebus accident, with 257 fatalities, the number of close family is in the hundreds. With grandchildren and wider family and friends, thousands of New Zealanders, and others from overseas have direct links to the accident. Fifty eight passengers came from overseas: Australia (2), Canada (2), France (1), Japan (24), Switzerland (2), United Kingdom (5) and the United States (22). Many of the children and grandchildren have placed heartfelt messages on the National Memorial website.

The New Zealand Airline Pilots Association maintains a significant website about the Mt. Erebus accident, including a ‘Roll of Remembrance’ listing all the crew and passengers on the flight and with some public comments by relatives. See:http://www.erebus.co.nz/MemorialandAwards/RollofRemembrance.aspx


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