Hor­ror of Munich crash re­called by play­ers 59 years on

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Lynne Kelle­her news@dai­ly­mail.ie

MUNICH Air Dis­as­ter sur­vivor Harry Gregg has re­vealed how his friend, Dubliner Liam Whe­lan, told his Manch­ester United team-mates that he was pre­pared to die min­utes be­fore he was killed in the plane crash.

The Ir­ish foot­baller was just 22 when he died in the tragedy that claimed the lives of eight play­ers in 1958.

In a mov­ing BBC doc­u­men­tary to mark the 80th birth­day of Eng­land World Cup hero Bobby Charl­ton, for­mer goal­keeper Gregg, now 84, re­called the crash in which 23 died.

Derry man Gregg – known as Hero of the Munich – tells how de­vout Catholic Whe­lan had said he was ready to meet his maker as the plane made its third at­tempt to take off from the slush-filled run­way. The team, un­der in­spi­ra­tional man­ager Matt Busby, was re­turn­ing to the UK from a Euro­pean Cup tie in Bel­grade.

‘We started to roll and I was start­ing to get afraid,’ said Gregg, who went on to win 25 caps with North­ern Ire­land. ‘Lit­tle Johnny Berry, said, “We’re all go­ing to get frig­ging killed here.”

‘Liam Whe­lan was a good Catho- lic lad. He said, “Well, if it hap­pens, I’m ready”. I watched the un­der­car­riage go up and next thing I know, it’s dark­ness and bang­ing and things hit­ting you.’

The pi­lots lost con­trol and the plane crashed through a fence and into a farm­house.

‘We ran into a house and a few other ob­sta­cles and it was just a night­mare,’ said Bobby Charl­ton.

Af­ter Gregg re­gained con­scious­ness, he ini­tially thought he was the only per­son left alive in the wreck­age and kicked his way out of the burn­ing plane. But walk­ing around ‘the stub of a wing’, he said: ‘I found Bobby Charl­ton and Den­nis Vi­ol­let ly­ing half in and half out of the air­craft, which was be­ing con­sumed by fire.

‘I thought they were dead. I pulled them 15, 20 yards away, just grabbed them by the trousers and pulled them through the snow and laid them over a pile of rub­bish.’

Charl­ton, a brother of fu­ture Re­pub­lic of Ire­land man­ager Jack Charl­ton, re­calls wak­ing up about 60 yards from the plane, still strapped to his seat. He said: ‘I didn’t know how that hap­pened. Next to me was Sir Matt (Busby), who was re­ally se­ri­ously in­jured, Den­nis Vi­ol­let and then Bill Foulkes and Harry Gregg came out of the air­plane.

‘If Harry Gregg or Bill Foulkes or any­one had lifted me out, I would just say, “Well, thanks very much,”’ said the English leg­end, who spoke of the crash with dif­fi­culty.

Be­fore his death, Dubliner Liam Whe­lan had scored 53 goals in 98 first-team ap­pear­ances with the Red Dev­ils and had four in­ter­na­tional caps with Ire­land.

In the doc­u­men­tary, Jack Charl­ton also speaks of his hor­ror at read­ing about the crash on a news­pa­per stand. He re­called: ‘A woman had said, “There is no sur­vivors”, but be­hind her came a po­lice­man and he said, “Wait a minute, there is quite a few, and Bobby is one of them.”’

Sir Bobby Charl­ton At 80 is on BBC1 next Sun­day, Oc­to­ber 8, at 10.30pm.

Ir­re­place­able loss: Liam Whe­lan

Wreck­age: eight United play­ers were among the 23 who died

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