Memories of another survivor

<< David Merriot, a school friend

On March 17th 2018 the following comment from Carole Bell-Court (nee Alexander) was posted to the blog.

I am also a survivor of this air crash. Carole Alexander was my name then and I was 16 and lost both my parents.

This is the first time since leaving the hospital in Ljubljana in 1966 that I have ever “talked to” someone else who survived the crash.

Since then I have had several fairly lengthy email conversations with Carole and she has provided a somewhat harrowing account of her experience. Unlike me, but like my mother, she was conscious throughout and experienced the full horror of the crash. I have always thought that I was lucky in that I was, physically, on the mend before I regained consciousness.

The text that is published below and on subsequent pages is an almost word-for-word account of what Carole sent to me. I have only edited it a little to fit on pages better.

Carole’s memories (part one)

It doesn’t seem over half a century. I was sixteen, had started working for the Civil Service, and going on holiday to Yugoslavia, not a particularly renowned place to go. We had to fly out of Luton and it was quite a distance away so we were staying over night at my Great Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Brent Pelham, Hertfordshire. I always loved going there so the excitement was doubled.

When we arrived at Luton Airport I remember having some stupid argument with my parents, and being a right little madam I went into non speaking mode. Mum was also quiet. Ever since Dad had booked the holiday she had this foreboding feeling. I found this out when I got home. She told her best friend, the lady who was looking after our dog, she was not happy to go.

I had changed seats with my father so I could be next to the window, so obviously not in my allocated seat. We took off, and it didn’t seem too long before we were near Ljubljana Airport.

Seat belts were on for landing. There was this jolt that knocked you sideways, just like a car tyre hitting the kerb and throwing you slightly askew. I looked at my parents, you could see they were as unsure of what was happening as was I.

The next thing I remember I was still sitting in my seat, the seat belt broken. I still cannot understand why you have to wear them when they break so easily.

It was strange, I knew I had to get up but didn’t really know why. Some sort of instinct for survival? I must have clambered over my parents to get to the aisle but I cannot remember seeing them.

We had been sitting near the back of the plane and I saw an opening. The door had fallen off. I could hear faint noises and crackling. Standing at the gaping hole, I looked down, it was a fair distance to the ground. There were flames so I held both hands over my face and eyes and being Miss Brave jumped. Landing on the ground I noticed I didn’t have any shoes on. They must have flown off on impact.

What is so stupid is I remember saying “You silly girl, you’ve left your shoes behind”.

Underfoot was prickly, and hurt my feet. I was a bit of a dresser; latest fashion, coordinating colours, black and white. Very Mary Quant. I looked awful. Black tights ripped to shreds, white skirt filthy, shoeless. The thing is, I don’t think I actually realised what had happened.

Voices and wails and more crackling could be heard further into the trees so I walked towards them and quietly sat down amongst probably six people. People were praying, and you could see lights and vehicles coming through the woods.

It seemed to take ages before anyone came to get me. Its obvious now, that others were a lot more badly injured than myself.

Carole’s memories (part 2) >>