When Harriet Ware-Austin was eight years old, she witnessed a plane crash in which both of her older sisters were killed. She has spent much of the last 49 years.
Harriet was standing with her parents on an open-air platform at the Addis Ababa airport that day in April 1972. The Easter holidays were over, and Harriet’s sisters, 12-year-old Caroline and 14-year-old Jane, were flying from I return to England from Ethiopia to start the new school year. When the girls reached the top of the steps of the plane, they turned to say goodbye and then disappeared inside.
Soon her plane was thundering down the runway, picking up speed to take off from the ground. But instead of soaring into the sky, there was a loud screech of brakes. Out of control, the plane veered before descending a steep edge at the end of the runway But she recently set out to connect with other people affected by the same tragic event. And then all of a sudden, a big column of black smoke appeared,” Harriet recalls.
Harriet’s father, Bill, ran off to the plane, leaving Harriet and her mother, Elsa, standing hand in hand, staring in silent disbelief. Thousands of miles away, at a boarding school in Warwick, 12-year-old Graham Townsend was waiting for his two younger brothers, Christopher and Kenneth, to return after Easter break. Normally, the three boys would have spent the holidays with their parents in Addis Ababa.
This year there had been a change of plans and Graham had not come, so he was anxious to know what adventures his brothers had been having. When he received the bad news, the details were unclear. There was an accident and he had to do with a flight, but at first it did not occur to Graham that something could be seriously wrong. My first thought was, ‘Wow, what a fantastic story they’re going to have when they get back He says.
I was almost feeling a little jealous. He kept playing, trying to balance three brightly colored glass marbles on a stool with a slightly curved top. Two of the marbles drifted away, leaving only one. And that’s when I suddenly thought, ‘God, I could be alone here. Almost half a century later, Harriet Ware-Austin spoke to Life Changing on BBC radio about the event that had left such a deep mark on her life.
Harriet’s sister Caroline and her friend Debbie had managed to unbuckle their seat belts and get out of the plane, Harriet explained. But Caroline had run downhill, where fuel was spilling from broken tanks, while Debbie fled in the opposite direction and escaped the fire that engulfed her friend. Caroline was still alive when her father found her, but all of her clothes had burned away, leaving only her shoes.