Zelf herinner ik me er niets meer van, maar dat is ook niet zo verwonderlijk want ik was amper negen jaar oud, maar het is vandaag zestig jaar geleden dat het zwaarste vliegtuigongeval in België plaatshad, waarbij o.m. het hele kunstschaatsteam van de VS (foto) omkwam.
Sabena Flight 548 was a Boeing 707 aircraft that crashed en route from New York City to Brussels, Belgium, on February 15, 1961, killing all 72 on board, as well as one person on the ground (Theo de Laet, a farmer, was struck by debris; another farmer’s leg was severed by flying debris).
The Boeing had had to abort its landing at Brussels because of an aircraft blocking one of the runways, and tried to climb and circle towards another one. It started banking dangerously, but the attempts to level its wings caused it to spiral rapidly down to the ground, where it crashed on a farm.
The cause of the crash was never established, but is believed to have been a failure of the stabilizer-adjusting mechanism. It remains the deadliest plane crash to occur on Belgian soil, and the first fatal accident involving a 707 in regular passenger service.
Part of the crash were all 18 athletes of the 1961 U.S. figure skating team on its way to the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Furthermore 16 family members, coaches and officials. The dead included 9-time U.S. ladies’ champion, turned coach, Maribel Vinson-Owen and her two daughters, reigning U.S. ladies’ champion Laurence Owen (age 16) and reigning U.S. pairs champion Maribel Owen (age 20). Maribel Owen’s pairs champion partner Dudley Richards and reigning U.S. men’s champion Bradley Lord also died, along with U.S. ice dancing champions Diane Sherbloom and Larry Pierce. The team also lost U.S. men’s silver medalist Gregory Kelley, U.S. ladies’ silver medalist Stephanie Westerfeld, and U.S. ladies’ bronze medalist Rhode Lee Michelson. The loss of the U.S. team was considered so catastrophic for the international sport that the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships were promptly cancelled.
Because the casualties included many of the top American coaches as well as the athletes, the crash was a devastating blow to the U.S. Figure Skating program, which had enjoyed a position of dominance in the sport in the 1950s. Although Scott Allen won a bronze medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics – becoming one of the youngest Olympic medalists in history – the United States would not regain prominence in the sport until the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, where Peggy Fleming won gold in the ladies’ event and Tim Wood the silver in the men’s. The crash was also indirectly responsible for bringing foreign coaches such as Carlo Fassi and John Nicks to the United States.
A film about the event, called “RISE”, was commissioned by U.S. Figure Skating to celebrate American figure skating and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the accident. “RISE” was shown in theaters nationwide for one day only: February 17, 2011. (Wikipedia)