Bradford flight attendant fire hero blue plaque unveiled

  • Published
Barbara Jane HarrisonImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Barbara Jane Harrison was working on a flight from Heathrow bound for Australia, when it burst into flames on take-off

A blue plaque has been unveiled to honour a Bradford flight attendant killed while evacuating passengers from an aeroplane fireball in 1968.

British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) employee Barbara Harrison is also the only woman to be awarded the George Cross for heroism in peacetime.

Ms Harrison, known as Jane, was just 22 when she died in a blaze on a Boeing 707 at Heathrow Airport.

British Airways paid for the blue plaque for the people of Bradford.

Ms Harrison, born in Bradford in 1945, was working on the BOAC (later British Airways) flight to Australia, but soon after take-off a major engine fire developed and the plane returned to Heathrow for emergency landing.

John Hutchinson, second officer on the flight, remembered: "We stopped on the runway, this superheated metal burst into flames and the fire spread from the tail of the aeroplane up the fuselage.

"Every now and then there'd be the most horrendous explosions as a fuel tank exploded or a tyre burst."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Boeing 707 jetliner BOAC Flight 712 to Australia burst into flames at Heathrow Airport in 1968 minutes after take-off

Some stewards left by emergency chutes to extinguish the fire, while Ms Harrison stayed at the back of the plane to help passengers leave.

It is thought she returned to help an elderly disabled lady and an eight-year-old girl, but none of them escaped.

Five people, including Ms Harrison, died. The other 122 people on board survived.

Image source, IAN HOWARTH
Image caption,
Ms Harrison's posthumous George Cross is on show at the British Airways Heritage Collection at Heathrow

Si Cunningham, from Bradford Civic Society, said: "Barbara went back into a burning aircraft several times to rescue people, putting others before herself.

"She died in the disaster, but not before saving a good number of people first."

He added: "Her remarkable act of bravery must never be forgotten.

"Jane is regarded as a truly great Bradfordian and someone we are all immensely proud of."

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