The Star Says: Manchester air disaster families deserve to hear the word ‘sorry’

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Sorry does seem to be the hardest word for the companies involved in one of Britain’s worst ever aeroplane disasters, as we report today.

It is 30 years since the Manchester air disaster on August 22, 1985, resulted in the deaths of 55 people – 10 from Sheffield – after a blaze broke out in the engine of a British Airtours jet that had been due to fly to Corfu.

Most of the victims died from inhaling toxic smoke and many were impeded from escaping by the layout of the seats and the narrow widths of the exits.

Passengers were left trapped as flames engulfed the rear of the plane.

Neither the airport nor British Airways, which operated Airtours for charter flights, have formally apologised, but both have expressed their sympathies to the victims of families and survivors ahead of a special ceremony in Manchester today.

Survivors and the relatives of those who died eventually successfully sued US aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

The disaster led to a host of changes in air safety procedures.

Sheffield couple William and Linda Beckett have travelled the world campaigning for improved safety standards in the wake of the Manchester air disaster in which their 18-year-old daughter Sarah died.

They have faced frequent frustration in dealing with Government departments and giant airline companies as they try to bring in changes designed to save lives.

But the pressure applied by their group – and others set up in their wake in places like America – has contributed to a raft of improvements and increased accountability over accidents.

However, despite the successes of Mr and Mrs Beckett it remains bizarre that no apologies have been forthcoming.

Of course the companies are sympathetic – who could be anything other than sympathetic when dealing with such tragic loss? – but why not say sorry?

It is amazing that after 30 years people still can’t bring themselves to utter that simple word despite 55 people perishing on a summer’s morning.

Thankfully, much good work has been done in the aftermath of the tragedy so that others may survive a similar situation.

And it is heartening that details have been announced for a new memorial at Manchester Airport.

However, surely now it is time for the families to receive their apology.