Ipswich: Musician relives the horror of air crash

IPSWICH: A musician from Ipswich today claims it took her years to realise what a lucky escape she had after a plane crashed through the hotel she was due to be staying at.

Following the verdict in a French court yesterday which saw a US airline and one of its mechanics blamed for the crash that grounded Concorde, Andy Hopgood remembers that fateful night on July 25 2000.

Had it not been for the heavy traffic surrounding Charles de Gaulle airport on that evening, Miss Hopgood would have been standing in the reception of the Hotelissimo when the Air France Concorde nosed-dived into it.

A total of 113 people died in the incident.

Miss Hopgood was just 17 at the time and on a trip with the Suffolk Youth Wind Band. Ten years on, she admits it is only now that she can appreciate the enormity of what happened that day.

The 28-year-old, of Bramford Road, said: “It was quite a life-changing experience but at the time I didn’t realise that.”

The aircraft took off from the Parisian airport at 4.44pm that day and, according to yesterday’s court ruling, ran over a titanium metal strip on the runway.

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It gashed the tyre, and shards of rubber were propelled into the fuel tanks, sparking a fire.

The plane then crashed into the Hotelissimo, killing all 109 passengers and four people on the ground.

“That was our hotel,” said Miss Hopgood. “It happened just as we were due to arrive but we were stuck in traffic. We were not far away, we could see clouds of smoke and we all knew where it was coming from.

“I think because we were quite young, we didn’t realise what a big deal it was. It wasn’t until we got home to our parents that we realised how frightened everyone had been. And now I am older I look at it from a different perspective.”

Continental Airlines and John Taylor were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for safety failures on a DC10 aircraft that left debris on the runway.

The airline was ordered to pay Air France �914,000 for damaging its reputation, and fined �170,000.

The airline and mechanic John Taylor were also ordered to jointly pay more than �230,000 in damages to different civil parties.

Taylor was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence, and a �1,700 fine.

All other defendants – including three former French officials and Taylor’s now-retired supervisor Stanley Ford – were acquitted.

n Have you experienced a life-changing event? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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