It was on this day in 1987 that Poland’s worst ever air disaster occurred. Shortly after take off from Warsaw for New York one of the engines of the Ilyushin IL62 caught fire which led to a further fire in the hold. The pilot attempted to return to Warsaw to make an emergency landing but lost control and the plane crashed into the Kabaty Forest on the outskirts of Warsaw with the loss of all 183 passengers and crew. Some of the pictures taken at the scene were shown again on :Polish television today and they are deeply upsetting.
I had the chance to visit the site of the crash a few years ago. A cousin of my wife lives in a new housing development half an hour’s walk from the Forest which has always been a popular place for Warsaw people to go walking and cycling at weekends. In a clearing there is a large cross and a stone with the names of all the victims. Twenty years on the height of the trees still marked the path the plane took as it dropped shaving the tops off as it came down. It was a quiet and peaceful place, and the violence of the landing, the terror of the doomed passengers seemed oddly distant. I wrote this:
When they humped their cases onto the belt,
weighed up the duty free,
they did not know how a fuselage could burn
and cables melt like the wings of Icarus.
They could not imagine plunging to Earth
through seas of sunlight, the fierce speed of the forest
rising up to meet them,
the gentle fall of rain on leaves,
which, once spread out to catch them,
now lift them up in shafts of stolen light.
Kabaty Forest is on the outskirts of Warsaw. Flight LOT5055fell to Earth there on 9th May 1987with the loss of all 183 passengers and crew.