1 Nov 2016

Lack of Erebus disaster memorial a 'glaring omission'

10:01 pm on 1 November 2016

A voluntary group is working on plans for a national memorial for the 257 people killed in the Mount Erebus crash.

Everyone on board the Air New Zealand sightseeing flight was killed when the plane crashed into the side of the mountain in Antarctica on 28 November, 1979.

Science research base on Ross Island with Mount Erebus behind, Antarctica.

Mount Erebus on Ross Island in Antarctica, with Scott Base in the foreground. Photo: AFP

They say the lack of a memorial is a glaring omission, and one needs to be erected in time for the disaster's 40th anniversary in 2019.

The group's patron is Lady June Hillary, the wife of the famous late adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary.

Lady Hillary lost her first husband, Peter Mulgrew, in the Mount Erebus crash. Mr Mulgrew had taken a spot on the plane reserved for Sir Ed, who was unable to go.

Listen to RNZ's Morning Report from the day after the crash here.

One of the group's members, aviation historian Richard Waugh, said it was still New Zealand's worst civil aviation disaster and in many ways it was a "glaring omission" that no national memorial had been mooted until now.

Aviation historian Richard Waugh.

Richard Waugh Photo: Supplied

Rev Waugh said the group was now trying to get in touch with the families to consult them on the site, design and desirability of a memorial.

David Allan's parents, Malyon and Marjorie, were on the flight, along with his sister, Jane.

Mr Allan said there was nowhere to remember everyone.

"There were others we knew, and also others I've met subsequently," he said.

"I think for a lot of people the timing is very good.

David Allan's parents Malyon and Marjorie were on the flight, along with his sister Jane.

David Allan Photo: Supplied

"On reflection it really has been lacking that there's no one spot [for a memorial] given the nature and the size of the tragedy.

"I totally applaud the fact that it's proposed."

Mr Allan recently commissioned a sculpture by Renate Verbrugge for the family home in Clive, near Napier.

Captain Jim Collins' wife, Maria, said she understood the need for a national memorial.

"It would be fitting as it affected so many people in New Zealand at the time who had friends or relatives or somebody who knew somebody - that there is a place marked that gives the names of all the people who died," she said.

David Allan recently commissioned a sculpture by Renate Verbrugge for the family home in Clive, near Napier

David Allan recently commissioned a sculpture by Renate Verbrugge for the family home in Clive, near Napier. Photo: Sculpture

Mrs Collins said such a memorial would not be for her because she carried Jim in her head and heart.

Minister of Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry said she was open to the idea and had asked her officials to meet with the group.

"It's very early days, I think memorials and commemorations are important for New Zealanders. The Erebus is one that touched many of our lives - I remember where I was when I heard about it," she said.

"It's something that has been an epic disaster in New Zealand terms.

"I'm very interested to hear more about it but it must come from the families," she said.

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