“I’m alive”: Saddleworth plane crash survivor ruled out of moors mystery

By Trevor Baxter

THE ONLY known survivor of a post-war Saddleworth plane crash would support erecting a memorial to the victims at the site on Indian’s Head.

p3 professor evans pic credit Annerose Koerber
Professor Evans (Picture by Annerose Koerber)

Professor Stephen Evans, 72, also believes the name of an unidentified pensioner, found dead on the track leading to Chew Reservoir on December 12 could be added if it is ever determined he had links to the tragedy.

Evans, Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was initially considered to be the mystery man after details of the doomed 1949 flight from Belfast to Manchester were released as part of exhaustive police inquiries.

He and his parents survived when the Douglas Dakota ploughed into Wimberry Rocks in poor visibility but his 18-month-old brother, Roger, was among 24 victims.

Professor Evans, a Southampton-based father of two and grandfather of four, contacted police to rule himself out of the investigation.

But he is now following developments and contemplating a first ever return to the crash site with his family.

“I have never been back to the area but not because of any antipathy towards it,” he told the Saddleworth Independent.

“I have been to Manchester University on a couple of occasions but never had the time to go any further. Besides, it wasn’t the type of thing when our children were younger, I would have chosen to take them there.

“But I plan to return, probably with my two sons, possibly with one of my brothers, because I have always said I wanted to visit again.

“However, I don’t think I would go back on my own just in case the memories come back and overwhelm me.”

Professor Evans, who spent three months in hospital after the crash which left him with lifelong burns to his right hand but few mental scars, says laying a memorial plaque or stone on Wimberry Moss is a good idea.

“I would probably want to visit the site to see if it was an appropriate thing. But it is an interesting thought,” he continued.

“So, I think it would be good and to probably add this poor man’s name to it as well if it turns out he is anyway associated with it.

“The reason I have been prepared to become involved is a story might help keep interest up. So, anyone who knows this poor man might come forward and say who he might be.

“His is a current tragedy; mine is a tragedy from long ago which I have recovered from. I have been enormously blessed in my life,” insists Professor Evans, now a frequent flyer after an initial 16-year gap following the moors crash.

Despite nearly losing his life Professor Evans admits the accident has caused moments of black humour.

“In 1949, my ‘death’ was reported by the Belfast Evening Telegraph. But they had got my brother and I the wrong way round.

“So, I’ve now had my death reported twice. My youngest son suggests when I finally make it to the other side we get a newspaper headline saying: ‘Third Time Lucky.’”


One Reply to ““I’m alive”: Saddleworth plane crash survivor ruled out of moors mystery”

  1. Although it seems to have now been largely discounted, I guess there remains some possibility of a connection to the 1949 crash – looking back through some of the press articles yesterday I note that one Daily Mirror piece (“Mystery as smartly-dressed pensioner travels 200 miles to die on Indian’s Head summit” 18/1/16) has a photo taken from the layby where the man is reported to have been found, with a view of (what I assume to be) Wimberry Crag/Indian’s Head.

    One factor that might go towards clarifying the possibility would be the exact position of the body in the layby (if that’s actually the location). Of course, how much of a view of anything there would have been of anything up there in the near dark of the afternoon of December 11th is another matter.

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