Accident over Wicklow bay in 1970 remembered
Five people lost their lives over Wicklow bay on 18th August 1970, while filming scenes for the motion picture Zeppelin, which had just gone into production.
An Alouette ll helicopter with a camera man and a group of replica biplanes arrived in the bay that sunny afternoon to film aerial scenes. As the planes were simulating an attack, there was a midair collision involving a biplane and helicopter. There was panic onshore as people watched in horror, many onlookers though it was part of the action.
Wicklow lifeboat RNLB JW Archer was launched and joined a flotilla of local boats and an Air Corps Alouette lll helicopter in the search for survivors. But it was soon evident there were none and the grim task of recovering bodies began and continued over the following days.
l was one of many who witnessed the aftermath of the collision with my sister Caroline and brother Pat. A memorial ceremony to remember the five men was held the following weekend on the Packet pier.
The dangers of filming action movies were highlighted again this week also, as news broke about the death of a stunt women on a movie set in America and reports that actor Tom Cruise sustained injuries while filming his own stunts for a new film.
The film Zeppelin was completed and released in late 1971. I remember seeing it years later, on our first colour television set. The accident is an event etched deep in memory and is my earliest experience of fear, which ignited a lifelong interest in helicopters!
RIP to the five men who never returned that day.