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Remembering the 19th of November 1977

Forty-two years ago, at 21:48 on the 19th of  November 1977, Madeira was stunned and in mourning as one of the greatest tragedies in Portuguese civil aviation struck the islands International Airport.

The accident occurred on TP425, a commercial flight between Brussels and Funchal, with a stopover in Lisbon. The aircraft was carrying a hundred and fifty-six passengers and eight crew members.  After two unsuccessful attempts to land the Boeing 727-200 named ‘Sacadura Cabral,’ the pilot came in for a third attempt, before diverting to Gran Canaria.  Unfortunately, due the shortness of the runway, it was only 1,600 m (5,250 ft), heavy rain, an excessive landing speed and the fact that the plane landed 323 metre’s away from the touch down point, the pilot lost control of the aircraft as it hydroplaned along the runway.  Unable to stop, the aircraft slid off the end of the runway, plunged down a 200 foot embankment, where it split into two as it hit a bridge and burst into flames.  The accident resulted in a hundred and thirty-one deaths and thirty-three injuries.

Emanuel Torres, one of the survivors of this tragedy flew from Lisbon with his mother.  In a recent interview with reporters, he said the accident had marked him for life.  He went on to say that he was lucky, as instead of landing on the runway he was catapulted into the sea.  However, the then seventeen-year-old lost his mother but managed to save a child who was also on the plane.  Forty-two years later, he still says he cannot understand what happened.

Samantha Gannon

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Madeira Weekly