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Bury St Edmunds: Rugby club’s memorial cycle ride raises nearly £100,000

PUBLISHED: 13:00 23 April 2014 | UPDATED: 14:35 23 April 2014

Andy Spetch (left) and Austin Cornish pictured at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club.

Andy Spetch (left) and Austin Cornish pictured at Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club.

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A memorial cycle ride in honour of 18 Bury St Edmunds Rugby Club members who lost their lives in a plane crash 40 years ago has already raised nearly £100,000.

The ride from May 7 to 11 will see cyclists cover about 352 miles, starting at the crash site at Ermenonville, near Compiegne in France, and finishing at Bury Rugby Club.

The event has been organised by Andy Spetch, who is a committee member, groundsman and coach at the club, and Austin Cornish, who was only three years old when his father Laurie Cornish, who was club vice president, died in the crash aged 39.

Mr Cornish, whose company Bury Developments sponsors the club, said about 95 cyclists and 25 volunteers were signed up for the ride, which has already raised about £96,000 for the club as well as St Nicholas Hospice Care.

He said: “When we came up with the idea about 12 months ago we weren’t too sure how it was going to go to be honest, but it’s been amazing. When the crash happened someone knew someone who was involved in it with Bury being a small town. A rugby club is generally quite a centre for social activities.”

He added: “I think we have got five of the children who lost their fathers doing the ride.”

He said ex-England rugby player David Duckham MBE was writing a piece for the programme for the event and BT Sport had made a moving documentary about the memorial ride, which aired at the beginning of last month.

Mr Cornish said: “After we were on BT Sport we had about 90 donations from people all over the world.”

The plane crash in March 3, 1974, was the worst the world had ever seen.

The players, staff and colleagues at the club had visited France in good spirits - to watch the England versus France Five Nations match and take part in a friendly against a local side – having just won the Suffolk Knockout Cup.

But after their friendly scheduled for the day of the crash was postponed, 18 of the 21-strong party opted to take an earlier flight on the ill-fated Turkish Airlines DC-10 as a two-day strike at Heathrow had halted any British flights.

The three other players, John Cousins, vice chairman Ron Freeman and Albert Spriggins, decided to stay on and visit an agricultural show in Paris.

In total 346 people perished in the tragedy, which caused incomparable grief in the west Suffolk town and rugby community. Ten local women had been widowed and between them they had 19 children who were now fatherless.

The Rugby Club set up a Disaster Fund to give immediate assistance, which had phenomenal support from the public.

Mr Cornish said the event is now closed to new entrants, but people can still donate. Visit www.memorialcycleride.co.uk

This website also contains a link to the BT Sport documentary.

Cash raised for Bury Rugby Club will be used to help fund a floodlighting project to increase the area available for night-time training for both the youth and mini sections of the club.

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