The last remaining survivor of the 1949 Saddleworth Moor plane crash disaster, Professor Stephen Evans, has returned to the scene of the tragedy that claimed the life of his younger brother, Roger, for the first time.
Professor Evans, who was only five when a Douglas DC3 Dakota, en route from Belfast to Manchester, ploughed into Wimberry Stones killing a total of 24 passengers, made the visit with sons, Matthew and David and eight-year-old granddaughter, Katie.
In appalling weather conditions, eerily similar to the fateful August day when the plane came down, they climbed through mist and low cloud to the skyline close to Indian’s Head.
And near to the wreckage site they allowed the Southampton based Professor of Pharmacoepidemiology a few moments on his own to reflect on the life-changing events of the day nearly 67 years ago.
“I had always talked about coming up here one day but assumed I would be doing it on my own,” he told the Independent. “I wanted to come here and remember what I do remember of those days.
“It wasn’t a forbidden subject but we didn’t talk a great deal about it.
“However, various people said I shouldn’t do it on my own, I imagine for the emotional consequences of it.
“But actually the physical ones are quite considerable as well. It was quite a tough climb, especially in poor weather conditions.”
Despite torrential rain and sodden underfoot conditions Professor Evans led the group, including Independent reporter, Trevor Baxter, to the top, pausing only fleetingly to take in the still magnificent views and scouring the summit for clues as to where he and survivors were rescued.
“My younger son wondered if I was trying to prove something but it wasn’t that. It was what I wanted to do.
“I do have an underlying sense of immense gratitude for the people who came up here and rescued us. I also have gratitude for the hospital and the invention of antibiotics.
“With the burns I had, I wouldn’t have survived without antibiotics that had only recently become available.”
Professor Evans’ father, Horace, and mother, Ruth, were also on the flight and also survived.
During his poignant visit to Saddleworth, Professor Evans called in at Kinders Intake Farm at Dovestone where passengers were carried to from the wreckage.
He intends to plant a tree at the Life for a Life Memorial Forest on the banks of the popular beauty spot to remember those killed in the plane accident.
It was the discovery of an elderly man’s body, now dubbed ‘Neil Dovestone’, on Chew Track last December, that began a change of events leading to Professor Evans’ return.