Six people were killed when a small aircraft crashed on landing at Cork airport.
It’s appalling, but I still wonder why the major emergency plan was activated and why accident investigation teams from this country and the UK are being mobilised. It was a crash, that’s all.
Crashes happen all the time. People are killed every day, on the roads, by drowning, in farm accidents, in falls from cliffs, but it doesn’t make the front pages and it isn’t the lead item on the tv news.
We don’t get statements from county managers and ministers of government promising a thorough investigation.
Thirty years ago, there was a shocking fire in the Stardust night-club in North Dublin, in which 48 people lost their lives. The consequences of that disaster reverberated through the country, resulting in a complete restructuring of the fire services, and a highly-contentious tribunal of investigation, the results of which were never accepted by the victims’ families.
But on a broader scale, I often wonder why we react like this to incidents in which people die en masse. After all, tragic though the Stardust was, the same number of people die every year in ones and twos across the country when their homes catch fire. Despite the massive new investment in fire prevention following the Stardust, people continued to die in the same numbers they always did.
And people continue to die on the roads. Six people were killed in the plane crash, but can you remember the last time six people died on the roads? I think it might have been the last hioliday weekend, but there were no statements by government ministers and no inquiries were set up, because the people were obliging enough not to die all at once.
I think that’s what our safety agencies are for: to prevent people dying in the same place at the same time. They don’t save lives. They just save our feelings because we don’t like to think about people dying together.
While I’m on the subject, why do the media continue to describe the Gardaí as rescue workers when the people who carry out rescues at plane crashes and other disasters are the firefighters and the ambulance crews. The Guards just direct the traffic and order up the doughnuts.
It doesn’t stop them pronouncing on matters they know nothing about, however. I was struck by a quote from Garda Superintendent Charlie Barry : There were a number of passengers of course trapped in the plane. From what I could see two actually walked out, miraculously, four were taken out by stretchers and they were conveyed to the CUH (Cork University Hospital).
From what Charlie could see, it was miraculous. A quick dictionary search reveals the following:
Miracle — an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
There you have it: a professional assessment of the incident. God saved some of the people but didn’t care about the rest of them.
The Gardaí are highly influential in driving public policy on how we deal with accidents, and the perception exists, however mistaken, that they somehow possess expertise in managing incidents. Of course, it’s quite untrue. The Guards manage nothing, but with keen intellects like Superintendent Charlie Barry invoking divine intervention to explain what happened in a plane crash, is it any wonder there would be a lack of logic in the way we frame our policy on such mattters?