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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 03:52 GMT
Munich farmer recalls witnessing disaster

By Steven Rosenberg
BBC News, Munich

Wreckage of the plane that crashed killing the Manchester United football team
The plane crashed on its third attempt to take off from the runway
Fifty years after the Munich air crash, a farmer who witnessed it has seen his land become the site of a melancholy pilgrimage.

Twice in his life, Hans Wieser has seen aeroplanes crash-land on his farm.

"One plane came down in the 1970s, 50m from my house," Hans told me. "But no-one was hurt."

The other crash was in 1958: a British European Airways flight. Among the passengers - the Manchester United football team.

Hans' farm borders what used to be Munich Airport. The old control tower's still standing, and some of the original fence. Most of the airport buildings, though, have been taken down. The area's been turned into the Munich Exhibition Centre.

'Screaming'

Hans thinks back to 6 February 1958.

"The weather was awful," he recalls. "There was so much snow and such low visibility.

"I was in the stables working when I heard a woman screaming. I came out and saw that a plane had crashed into her house and ripped it from its foundations. She'd been in the cellar ironing and was unhurt. "

Then Hans saw the wreckage of the plane smouldering in his field. And dead bodies.

"Every day I have to walk past here, or do work here," he tells me. "Whenever I go in the field, the memories come back."

It's in our history... I thought it would be a good idea to see it for myself
Manchester United fan Scott Kirkwood

Twenty-three passengers on board that plane were killed, including eight Manchester United players.

Fifty years after the disaster, many Manchester United fans have come to Germany to mark the anniversary.

In Hans' field, I meet lifelong Man U fan Gary Kirkwood and his son Scott from Urmston.

Gary was born just a few months before the disaster. He didn't know the Busby Babes. But he has grown up with an acute sense of loss.

"It's important to pay my respects to all the people who died," says Gary.

"It's in our history," adds Scott. "You read about it, you're told about it. I thought it would be a good idea to see it for myself."

'Simply the best'

An Irish pub in Munich - home to the local Manchester United Supporters Club - has thrown open its doors to visiting fans. Here I find another dedicated supporter - Mick. He has George Best's autograph tattooed on his arm.

"They were simply the best team in the world," Mick tells me. "That's why I've come here."

Back at Hans' farm, the sun is setting over the fields.

Suddenly I hear a buzzing sound. I turn round and cannot believe my eyes.

Some local children have come here and they've begun playing with remote control aeroplanes, sending them dipping and soaring all over Hans' field.

In this of all places, on this of all days, it seems so wrong I almost ask them to stop.

But, perhaps, these kids are a sign that life must go on. Even in a place which has seen such tragedy.

SEE ALSO
Busby Babes remembered
04 Feb 08 |  Football
Munich air disaster remembered
04 Feb 08 |  Man Utd
Manchester Utd's day of tragedy
01 Feb 08 |  Man Utd

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