1961 plane crash victims to be remembered in Shannon

1961 plane crash victims to be remembered in Shannon

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The family of a victim of one of Ireland’s worst air disasters will attend a special memorial service in Shannon, Co Clare today.

Fifty-five (55) years ago this weekend, in the early hours of Sunday 10th September 1961, a President Airlines Douglas DC-6B plane crashed into the muddy, fog-shrouded waters of the Shannon Estuary.

The transatlantic flight, with 77 passengers and a crew of 6 on board, crashed shortly after taking off for Chicago, via Canada, killing all on board.

Most of the passengers were farmers and agriculturalists who were on their way from Dusseldorf in Germany for a three week study tour in the US.

Among those killed that morning was 33-year old Austrian father of three children, Ferdinand Berger. His three children were all under 5 at the time and his wife was 30 years old.

Ferdinand and his brother had a Company selling agricultural machinery. They were expanding their Company in Schwanenstadt Austria and in order to see what was happening in the American market, he were travelling to Chicago.

Today (Saturday), Ferdinand’s children will travel from Austria for the very first time to pay their respects and pray for their father in Shannon, the place of his death.

Shannon Parish Priest Fr Tom Ryan said: “A short memorial service will take place in the Adoration Chapel at Skycourt, at 10am to honour Ferdinand and to pray for all who died on that fatal day in 1961.”

All are welcome to the service to show support to the family and to pray for all who have died in air tragedies over the years in the Shannon region,” Fr Ryan added.

The flight had made a refuelling stop at Shannon Airport and developed engine problems while on the ground. The flight was delayed for several hours while the problem was investigated and finally departed for the US after it had been resolved.

The flight was due to make a further fuel stop at Gander Airport in Newfoundland, Canada before continuing onto Chicago. However, seconds after taking off from Shannon, the plane crashed into the Shannon estuary killing all 83 people on board.

Subsequent investigations established that the crash probably resulted from a malfunctioning attitude indicator, a fault in the starboard ailerons, or possibly both.

Poor weather conditions and crew fatigue were also cited as possible contributing factors.

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Chief Reporter Pat Flynn has worked as a journalist for almost 30 years. His career began during the late 1980s when, like many aspiring radio presenters of the time, he worked for local pirate radio stations in Clare and Limerick. Pat joined Clare FM in 1990 where he worked as researcher initially and later presented several different programmes including the station's flagship current affairs programme. He was also the station's News Editor and Deputy Controller of Programmes. Despite leaving in 2003 to pursue a career as a freelance journalist, he continues to work with the station to this day. As well as being the Clare Herald’s Chief Reporter Pat is also freelance journalist and broadcaster, contributing to Ireland’s national newspapers and is a regular contributor to national broadcasters.

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