Erebus memorial ‘important’

‘A place where family and friends can go to remember’.

‘A place where family and friends can go to remember’.

EREBUS REMEMBERED: The 39th anniversary of New Zealand’s worst civil aviation disaster at Mount Erebus is on Wednesday of next week. Gisborne woman Kath Jones went with her nephew to Antarctica in early 2011, with other relatives of the people who died in the crash, for the dedication of the memorial erected at Scott Base (pictured). All flowers and tributes were taken back to New Zealand because nothing foreign can stay at Antarctica. Pictures by Kath Jones
Mount Erebus.

The concept of a national memorial as a focal point for commemorating the crash of an Air New Zealand DC-10 into Mount Erebus in Antarctica is supported by a Gisborne woman whose two parents died in the disaster.

Bruce and Melba McMillan, aged 63 and 64, were among 257 people killed in a sightseeing flight that crashed into the side of the mountain on November 28, 1979.

This year is the 39th anniversary of the event, classified as New Zealand’s worst civil aviation disaster.

Gisborne educationalist Kath Jones feels it is really important to have a national memorial.

Not just to remember the people killed but also to acknowledge the people who undertook ‘Operation Overdue in the aftermath of the crash.

“It must have been horrendous. Their efforts were mammoth,” says Mrs Jones.

The Operation Overdue crew, mostly police and scientists, had the job to recover people and their belongings to return to family. Some family never got anything back. They also recorded the finishing spot of each and every piece of debris from the plane for the investigation.

“These people also need to be acknowledged in some way on the memorial.”

A row of tents to the side of the crash site was the home of the Operation Overdue crew for many weeks.

Mrs Jones says there is a quintessential photo every Kiwi knows that is used over and over in the media, which includes this row of tents.

“It is heart-wrenching for us to see that picture because it is an urupa — a wahi tapu. People not recovered are lying there.

The picture showing what she calls the “smudge” of the site from above, with a piece of fuselage and wreckage strewn over a 700-metre stretch of white ice.

Mrs Jones was a young 25-year-old mother at the time. She and her older sister were lucky, she says.

“We had a service and two bodies to bury but many had nothing. The crash site is their loved ones’ resting place.”

She wishes the media would have more sensitivity and not use that picture.

Mrs Jones has responded to a Ministry of Culture and Heritage survey about her thoughts for the memorial.

She now has no blame or resentment for anyone or any organisation about the accident.

“I have parked that . . . our parents died doing something they always wanted to do and it was a really exciting journey, an adventure. They were enjoying themselves. That is what we believe and now it is about what positives have and can come out of it.”

Major event in New Zealand history

She sees the memorial as a place where family and friends could go and remember their loved ones. It would be somewhere to sit and reflect and would play an important role in teaching history in the future.

“It was a major event in New Zealand history and something that tells or reminds of that means students of history in the future will have a starting point for understanding the impact it had on our country, and internationally.”

Memorials can humanise an event and personalise the people that died, she says.

For her generation, it was a vivid memory and everyone could say where they were that day, and how they heard the tragic news.

First overdue at about 1pm, it was not until about 10pm that night it was assumed the plane had gone down. Finally, at 1am, confirmation of the disaster came through.

Mrs Jones says another person to acknowledge is former Air NZ chief executive Rob Fyfe.

He organised the first get-together of all the families for the 30th anniversary in 2009, changing the way the airline interacted with families.

There was a short service and the unveiling of a commemorative sculpture, then Operation Overdue team members and airline representatives spoke to families.

She heard things she had never heard before, and found out that as a result of the accident a number of things in the airline industry had been changed.

Mr Fyfe also took the opportunity to apologise to the families and committed to enabling family members to travel to Antarctica for memorial services and to pay their respects.

“For us that was like ‘wow, that’s great.’ To me it’s positive . . . after the emotional roller-coaster of the time, something good has come out of it.”

Since Rob Fyfe started it, relatives could now be contacted to talk about things like the memorial.

Mrs Jones will attend the 39th anniversary memorial meeting next week in Auckland.

Air NZ opens the commemorative area at their headquarters every year and relatives can meet, remember and share.

This year there is a more formal meeting at a neutral venue, which will be attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The Prime Minister wants to hear first-hand families’ stories to understand the importance of the memorial to them.

“We have been told that part of the intention is to share some of the concept drawings for the memorial at that event,” she says.

The Government hopes to have a $3 million memorial completed in time for the 40th anniversary.

Mrs Jones went to Antarctica in early 2011 for the dedication of a memorial erected at Scott Base, in view of Erebus.

“I went with my nephew. It was pretty special, as it is an inextricable part of our family history.”

  • With the McMillans in the Air New Zealand DC-10 on that fatal flight were Gisborne benefactor HB Williams’ sister Janet and Leonard Heathcote Williams, from Havelock North.

The concept of a national memorial as a focal point for commemorating the crash of an Air New Zealand DC-10 into Mount Erebus in Antarctica is supported by a Gisborne woman whose two parents died in the disaster.

Bruce and Melba McMillan, aged 63 and 64, were among 257 people killed in a sightseeing flight that crashed into the side of the mountain on November 28, 1979.

This year is the 39th anniversary of the event, classified as New Zealand’s worst civil aviation disaster.

Gisborne educationalist Kath Jones feels it is really important to have a national memorial.

Not just to remember the people killed but also to acknowledge the people who undertook ‘Operation Overdue in the aftermath of the crash.

“It must have been horrendous. Their efforts were mammoth,” says Mrs Jones.

The Operation Overdue crew, mostly police and scientists, had the job to recover people and their belongings to return to family. Some family never got anything back. They also recorded the finishing spot of each and every piece of debris from the plane for the investigation.

“These people also need to be acknowledged in some way on the memorial.”

A row of tents to the side of the crash site was the home of the Operation Overdue crew for many weeks.

Mrs Jones says there is a quintessential photo every Kiwi knows that is used over and over in the media, which includes this row of tents.

“It is heart-wrenching for us to see that picture because it is an urupa — a wahi tapu. People not recovered are lying there.

The picture showing what she calls the “smudge” of the site from above, with a piece of fuselage and wreckage strewn over a 700-metre stretch of white ice.

Mrs Jones was a young 25-year-old mother at the time. She and her older sister were lucky, she says.

“We had a service and two bodies to bury but many had nothing. The crash site is their loved ones’ resting place.”

She wishes the media would have more sensitivity and not use that picture.

Mrs Jones has responded to a Ministry of Culture and Heritage survey about her thoughts for the memorial.

She now has no blame or resentment for anyone or any organisation about the accident.

“I have parked that . . . our parents died doing something they always wanted to do and it was a really exciting journey, an adventure. They were enjoying themselves. That is what we believe and now it is about what positives have and can come out of it.”

Major event in New Zealand history

She sees the memorial as a place where family and friends could go and remember their loved ones. It would be somewhere to sit and reflect and would play an important role in teaching history in the future.

“It was a major event in New Zealand history and something that tells or reminds of that means students of history in the future will have a starting point for understanding the impact it had on our country, and internationally.”

Memorials can humanise an event and personalise the people that died, she says.

For her generation, it was a vivid memory and everyone could say where they were that day, and how they heard the tragic news.

First overdue at about 1pm, it was not until about 10pm that night it was assumed the plane had gone down. Finally, at 1am, confirmation of the disaster came through.

Mrs Jones says another person to acknowledge is former Air NZ chief executive Rob Fyfe.

He organised the first get-together of all the families for the 30th anniversary in 2009, changing the way the airline interacted with families.

There was a short service and the unveiling of a commemorative sculpture, then Operation Overdue team members and airline representatives spoke to families.

She heard things she had never heard before, and found out that as a result of the accident a number of things in the airline industry had been changed.

Mr Fyfe also took the opportunity to apologise to the families and committed to enabling family members to travel to Antarctica for memorial services and to pay their respects.

“For us that was like ‘wow, that’s great.’ To me it’s positive . . . after the emotional roller-coaster of the time, something good has come out of it.”

Since Rob Fyfe started it, relatives could now be contacted to talk about things like the memorial.

Mrs Jones will attend the 39th anniversary memorial meeting next week in Auckland.

Air NZ opens the commemorative area at their headquarters every year and relatives can meet, remember and share.

This year there is a more formal meeting at a neutral venue, which will be attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The Prime Minister wants to hear first-hand families’ stories to understand the importance of the memorial to them.

“We have been told that part of the intention is to share some of the concept drawings for the memorial at that event,” she says.

The Government hopes to have a $3 million memorial completed in time for the 40th anniversary.

Mrs Jones went to Antarctica in early 2011 for the dedication of a memorial erected at Scott Base, in view of Erebus.

“I went with my nephew. It was pretty special, as it is an inextricable part of our family history.”

  • With the McMillans in the Air New Zealand DC-10 on that fatal flight were Gisborne benefactor HB Williams’ sister Janet and Leonard Heathcote Williams, from Havelock North.

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