- Title: GERMANY: Survivors of Ramstein Air Show disaster mark 20th anniversary
- Date: 29th August 2008
- Summary: (EU) ESCHBORN, GERMANY (RECENT - AUGUST 15, 2008) (REUTERS) GABRIELLA JOHNSON, SURVIVOR OF THE RAMSTEIN AIR DISASTER, WALKING INTO ROOM VARIOUS OF JOHNSON LOOKING AT PHOTOGRAPH PHOTOGRAPH OF JOHNSON AND HER PARTNER WHO DIED IN THE DISASTER, TAKEN THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE ACCIDENT (SOUNDBITE) (German) GABRIELLA JOHNSON, DISASTER SURVIVOR, SAYING: "It is not closure, definitely not. But 20 years have now past and our lives have continued during these 20 years. However, when I think back to the 28 August, I can still see it all in front of my eyes. How it was back then on this sunny, wonderful, hot day." PHOTOGRAPH OF JOHNSON AND PARTNER WHO WAS KILLED IN THE DISASTER (SOUNDBITE) (German) GABRIELLA JOHNSON, DISASTER SURVIVOR, SAYING: "It was unreal. It was not real. First I had to be treated. I didn't know that I was so badly burned. Only three days later did I realise that my skin was extremely badly burned. My face was burned and they were just able to save my ear. I had to have skin transplants. This treatment wasn't available then. They couldn't treat anything." ROSES NEXT TO JOHNSON (SOUNDBITE) (English) GABRIELLA JOHNSON, DISASTER SURVIVOR, SAYING: "I feel that those 20 years, should never, never, never be forgotten by anybody. By the public, they should think about it, what happened 20 years ago in Ramstein. They should not forget this." VARIOUS OF JOHNSON LOOKING AT PHOTOGRAPH
- Embargoed: 13th September 2008 13:00
- Location: Germany
- Country: Germany
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes
- Reuters ID: LVA1R33JHW3O6EFHGVWXTGZUFX1M
- Story Text: A memorial service is held to mark the 20th anniversary of the Ramstein Air Show disaster, in which 70 people were killed when two Italian planes collided in mid air.
It happened on August 28, 1988 at exactly 15:44 local time on the U.S. air base in the German town of Ramstein. During a military air show, two Italian planes collided. One of them burst into flames and was propelled like a fireball towards some of the 300,000 onlookers. According to official reports, 70 people died and more than 450 were injured in the disaster.
Twenty years later, a memorial service was held on Thursday (August 28) in the German town, to give survivors and victims the chance to remember their loved ones.
At a service next to the official memorial outside the U.S. Air Base, around 100 people gathered, along with representatives from the American and Italian airforce. Wreaths were laid down beside the memorial and a minute's silence was held.
"On the first anniversary, many people said, you will see that we will soon be forgotten. The next accident will happen and this will then be in the foreground. It is a phenomenon, that this did not happen and that such appreciation and regard exists today," said Hartmut Jatzko, a psychologist who has treated many of the survivors of the disaster.
One of those people was Gabriella Johnson. At the time of the accident she was 46 years old and her then partner, an Englishman, was 40. Both of them were seriously injured in the accident. Her partner died a week later as a result of his injuries.
Johnson said in an interview with Reuters TV that the twentieth anniversary was a special day for her but still brought her no closure,
"Twenty years have now past and our lives have continued during these 20 years. However, when I think back on the 28 August, I can still see it all in front of my eyes. How it was back them on this sunny, wonderful, hot day," she said.
Talking about the ordeal, Johnson said that on the day she did not realise how serious the accident had been, for others or for herself.
"It was unreal. It was not real. Firstly I had to be treated. I didn't know that I was so badly burnt. Only three days later did I realise that my skin was extremely badly burnt. My face was burnt and they were just able to save my ear," she said.
Johnson said it was a pure coincidence that she and her partner were at the airshow that day. She was the one to suggest going that day, a suggestion that has troubled her ever since.
She said that she will never forget what happened and that although two decades have now passed, the extent of the catastrophe should remain in people's minds forever.
Johnson, like many of the other victims and survivors, did not receive any official compensation for the suffering that was caused. She was, however, given 40,000 euros ($59,000 USD) from the Ministry of Defence for the 13 months, during which she could not work after the accident. Once she was able to work again, Johnson was asked to pay back the money. A court case lasting three and a half years came to the decision that she did not have to repay the money to the state.
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