One of the survivors of the Kegworth air disaster has been reunited for the first time with the police sergeant who pulled him from the wreckage.
Leslie Bloomer was rescued by police sergeant Bob Salter when a British Midland Boeing 737 went down on an embankment of the M1 close to the village in Leicestershire on 8 January 1989.
Villagers and drivers who were on the motorway at the time helped emergency services in the aftermath of the crash, which killed 47 people and seriously injured 74 more.
Hundreds gathered for a remembrance service to mark the anniversary today, including Mr Bloomer and the now retired Mr Salter, who were reunited by chance after being interviewed separately by Sky News.
Speaking after their emotional meeting, Mr Bloomer, 57, said: “It’s been amazing to come over here to see the service and the highlight was meeting Bob – he recognised me immediately as soon as I came into the hall.
“He’s a lovely man and it was an emotional meeting.”
Mr Bloomer told Sky News that he was only on the Belfast-bound plane, which had 126 passengers on board, after making a late change to his booking.
It suffered engine trouble after leaving Heathrow just before 8pm and had been diverted to East Midlands Airport.
Most of the deaths occurred at the front of the plane, but 79 people – including the two pilots, Captain Kevin Hunt and co-pilot David McClelland – survived.
Mr Salter was on emergency duty that night and was the first person on the scene of the accident.
He recalled: “I was set to East Midlands Airport, but before I got there the aircraft crashed in front of me and broke up into three places on the embankment of the motorway.
“It was still on fire when myself and another officer climbed onto the wing, took the exit door out, and the first person I saw was Leslie here.
“We dragged him down the motorway embankment and put him in the back of my police Range Rover.
“Today was very emotional, meeting him. It feels as though we’ve been friends for 30 years.”
Miraculously, the plane managed to avoid hitting any cars on the motorway when it went down and no one on the ground was hurt. It later emerged the pilots had shut down the wrong engine after the problem occurred.
Recalling the moment the plane began to encounter problems, Mr Bloomer said: “We were only in the air for 10 minutes or so when we had problems
“There were sparks coming from the engine, the smell of smoke. The pilot eventually came on said we were having trouble with the engine.
“The plane never really settled down and when we were coming in to land the engine disintegrated – and I can remember the last few seconds before hitting the ground.
“When it stopped, I was trapped by the legs under the seat. I pulled myself out, got to the edge of the plane, and this man was standing there, grabbed me and took me down to the motorway. I never thought I’d meet him again.”
At the memorial service attended by the families of some of the victims, as well as survivors and emergency workers, the names of the 47 victims were read out followed by a silence to remember their loss.
Wreaths were then laid at the memorial for the victims in the village cemetery.
Mr Salter said it was “remarkable” that anyone had survived the crash, adding that he never expected it to end up being a rescue operation when the plane went down.
He and Mr Bloomer both said they would keep in touch after the memorial.