Erebus victim's daughter reveals her personal struggle

  • Breaking
  • 23/10/2009

Every day for nearly 30 years Margaret Modricker has worn her late mother's engagement ring and remembered the blackest days in New Zealand aviation history.

Her mother, Jean Holloway, was 64 when she drove to Auckland International Airport on November 28, 1979, and boarded Air New Zealand flight TE 901 on a sightseeing flight to Antarctica.

She never came home.

The DC-10 slammed into Mt Erebus and all 257 passengers and crew were killed in the country's worst airline disaster.

Mrs Holloway's engagement ring was recovered from the snowy slopes of Mt Erebus amid the wreckage of the plane.

Today as the airline unveiled a memorial to the victims and apologised for not giving families enough support after the crash, Mrs Modricker said it did not do enough for the many people who were left in grief.

Her mother was one of the last passengers to be formally identified after two rings and some fragments of her Marks and Spencer underwear were found on the lower slopes of Mt Erebus.

"Everybody had to be identified with three items. I wear her ring. That was what identified her.

"It was her engagement ring and I wear it every day."

Mrs Modricker said while the airline had finally recognised the tragedy with a memorial and today's apology, it should have been done decades ago.

"It is a shame things were not sorted out and apologies were not given much earlier, but I guess it is better late than never," she said.

The memorial and apology followed another air crash last year, 29 years to the day after the Erebus tragedy, when an Air New Zealand Airbus A320 crashed into the sea off Perpignan, France, killing all seven on board.

Mrs Modricker said her grief had become manageable but had never stopped.

"It comes up at the strangest times. Something comes on the news or something comes up and it is that connection and you think, `Oh my goodness, another reminder.'

"It is not as if you want to forget. Now I think about it in my own way."

She said she would not want to fly to Antarctica as one of five representatives of passengers and crew board a United States Air Force C-17 aircraft next month.

"It is too much like deja vu. Don't tempt fate."

Mrs Modricker had asked for a message to be inserted in the memorial container to be left at the crash site.

"I just said `a mum who had missed out on her grandchildren who had grown up to be three fine young men ... missed out on all we could have shared together as mum and daughter ... and I still miss her terribly'."

Mrs Modricker said her mother, an avid traveller, had told her before the flight that she had flown over every continent in the world but Antarctica.

"She was doing it as a wonderful treat for herself.

"Unfortunately and sadly her own first cousin was on the plane and she didn't know that, so two of them went."

Mrs Modricker was in England on her overseas experience (OE) when the crash happened. She took the first flight she could back to Los Angeles where Air New Zealand put all relatives into the business class cabin for the flight back to New Zealand.

She said she made the 12-hour flight to New Zealand in a state of shock.

When she arrived back in New Zealand she was shocked at how many people were affected.

"Everybody knew somebody. Everywhere I went somebody was talking about somebody they had lost and the stories were quite gruelling."

Once home the airline did very little for her or her family.

` `They sent a bouquet of flowers to our home, that was it. It was not enough," she said.

Today the airline's chief executive Rob Fyfe apologised to the families as the sculpture commemorating the disaster was unveiled.

He said the airline had made mistakes.

"Sorry to everyone affected who did not receive the compassion and support they should have from Air New Zealand," he said.




source: newshub archive