'I believe I killed them' - Sheffield pensioner Tony Foulds remembers the Mi Amigo plane crash that saved and changed his life forever

"I believe I killed them. They gave their lives for me without a second thought and I owe my life to making sure they are never forgotten."The powerful words spoken by Tony Foulds ahead of the anniversary of the Mi Amigo plane crash.
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76 years ago on February 22, 1944, a US aircraft was returning from a mission but with engines failing the pilot, who was losing altitude, was left with a choice; land in Endcliffe Park where children were playing or crash in the woods next to the park and save the children.

Lt John Kriegshauser chose the latter and he and his nine crew all died in the crash.

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Tony Foulds  at the Mi Amigo memorial.Tony Foulds  at the Mi Amigo memorial.
Tony Foulds at the Mi Amigo memorial.
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Tony Foulds was one of the boys in the field at the time and more than seven decades on he is still plagued with guilt that he lived and they did not.

The 83-year-old said: "They were only young they had everything to live for. They were only aged between 19 and 24 and they made the ultimate sacrifice to not land in the field but take a chance.

"I don't know how many people would have done the same thing in their circumstances.

"I believe I killed them. They gave their lives for me without a second thought and I owe my life to making sure they are never forgotten."

One of the aircraft during the flypast.One of the aircraft during the flypast.
One of the aircraft during the flypast.
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A permenant memorial was built in Endcliffe Park in 1969 and since then Tony says he became more drawn to the crash site.

The grandad and great grandad said: "I don't believe you should remember people on just one day a year, if they matter to you, you need to think about them every day."

Up until Christmas last year Tony was visiting the site daily but following on from doctors orders takes a day off from visiting the memorial but says he uses this time to go to the Cathedral and give thanks for the lads he loves.

Tony, from Lowedges said: "I love them so very much, it is because of their sacrifice that I lived and I grew to be an old man with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren but it could have very easily been a different story and I was the one who died.

The Mi Amigo crew.The Mi Amigo crew.
The Mi Amigo crew.
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"I will now watch over them until I die and when I do go I will be having my ashes behind the memorial as I have given my life to remembering them it's only right I share my death with them too."

On the actual anniversary Tony will leave his house at around 8am and spend all morning at the crash site where the Royal British Legion will be standing on guard all day holding the standard and the park runners will be detouring past the memorial around 9am. He will stop for lunch then at 4pm he will return to the park and at 4.15pm stand where he was stood in 1944, turn to Netheredge and wave before heading over to the crash site for 5pm when it came down.

He will be there at the memorial service but only at the back as he says the actual day is more important to him rather than the closest Sunday.

Tony said: "There are heroes who fought in the war, there are heroes who died in the war and then there are special heroes who did not die in battle but gave their lives so others could live."

The wreckage.The wreckage.
The wreckage.
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Last year the 75th anniversary of the crash was marked with a special flypast by US and British air forces, thanks to the help of Dan Walker from BBC breakfast and The Star who championed Tony's work over the years.

Since then Tony has been given a ride in a plane over the crash site and a star on the Sheffield Hall of Fame and in May is planning a trip to America to meet some of the plane crew's surviving family members.

"When I get there I will kiss the ground because that was their land and they never got to return home and walk on it."I considered myself as much American as I do English now as it is only because of those wonderful Americans who gave their lives for me that I am here to tell you about their bravery."