Flypast honours bomber-crash crew

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Media captionThe flypast was watched by Tony Foulds, who tends the memorial to the 10 men who died

Thousands of people cheered a flypast honouring 10 airmen who died when their plane crashed in a park 75 years ago.

The US bomber came down in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield on 22 February 1944, killing everyone on board.

A campaign for a flypast started after a chance meeting between BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker and Tony Foulds, who tends a park memorial.

A tearful Mr Foulds was given a rousing round of applause as the planes flew over. He said: “This is unbelievable.”

Relatives of the aircrew and thousands of people from across Britain paid their respects as the planes roared over the memorial at about 08:45 GMT.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Foulds told the crowds: “Thank you very much for coming, it’s lovely to see you.”

Mr Foulds also met the families of some of the airmen who lost their lives in the crash 75 years ago and said they were “lovely, lovely people”.

He added: “I never thought I would ever meet any of the families of this pilot and crew.”

The flypast proved an emotional moment for Mr Walker, who is currently training for a Sport Relief Challenge in Tanzania.

He managed to watch the event and tweeted: “I can’t talk.”

The flypast involved military aircraft from Britain and the United States, who set off from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk – home to the largest US Air Force base in the UK.

Speaking in Tanzania, Mr Walker told Mr Foulds: “The last six weeks have been remarkable from my point of view.

“I know you jokingly asked everybody for a tenner who are there at the park today, but it’s not about the money, it’s never been about you.

“Tony, it’s always been about those 10 men who you think saved your life 75 years ago.”

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Tony Foulds waved at the aircraft as they flew past Endclliffe Park

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Thousands of people gathered to watch the flypast

Six terms related to the flypast – Tony Foulds, Endcliffe Park, #TonyGotAFlypast #RememberTheTen #MiAmigo75th and #sheffieldflypast – trended on Twitter on Friday.

Mr Foulds said he and the other children were in the park 75 years ago because boys from two rival junior schools were fighting.

Of the airmen on board the B-17 Flying Fortress, known as Mi Amigo, he said: “If it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be here with my family.

“It’s more than bravery, what they did. They saved me, and I mean saved me.

“These are now part of my family, my ashes are going to be put by the memorial. I might as well stay with them, you know.”

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All 10 airmen who were on board the B-17 Flying Fortress were killed on 22 February 1944

Mr Walker, who met Mr Foulds while he was walking his dog in the park, described him as an “amazing man” after hearing his story in early January.

Mr Foulds was eight when he witnessed Mi Amigo crash and explode in the park as the pilot apparently tried to avoid him and his friends.

A social media-led campaign subsequently went transatlantic and a flypast was successfully organised along with new steps and a flagpole for the crash memorial.

As the flypast took place wreaths were laid at the graves of three of the American airmen who died in the crash.

Three of the 10 crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress, Mi Amigo, are interred at Cambridge American Cemetery.

The headstones of Staff Sergeant Harry W Estabrooks, Sergeant Maurice D Robbins and Sergeant Charles H Tuttle were dressed on Friday with sand from Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

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Huge crowds gathered in Endcliffe Park

Mr Foulds said he felt responsible, because the plane was trying to avoid crashing into him.

Referring to his regular visits to the memorial, he said: “They are my family. I love them to pieces.

“If I go on holiday I always make sure my son goes to visit. I always tell them how I am, what I’m doing, what the weather’s like.”

Julia Johnson, who was among the crowds, said she had cried when she heard Mr Foulds’ story and travelled up from London for the event.

Ms Johnson said: “I saw the article on the BBC website about Tony and the hard work and felt I really wanted to be here on the day, regardless of the flypast.”

The florist said she had also offered to make a wreath for the servicemen who died in the crash.

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Danny Lawson/PA Wire

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Mr Foulds regularly tends to the park’s memorial and regards the American men who lost their lives as “family”

The 10 men killed in the crash:

  • Pilot Lt John Kriegshauser, pilot from Missouri
  • 2nd Lt Lyle Curtis, co-pilot from Idaho
  • 2nd Lt John Humphrey, navigator from Illinois
  • Melchor Hernandez, bombardier from California
  • Harry Estabrooks, engineer and gunner from Kansas
  • Charles Tuttle, gunner from Kentucky
  • Robert Mayfield, radio operator from Illinois
  • Vito Ambrosio, gunner from New York
  • Malcolm Williams, gunner from Oklahoma
  • Maurice Robbins, gunner from Texas

Capt Lauren Schlichting, a F-15E Strike Eagle pilot who took part in the flypast, said: “We definitely don’t take it lightly to be able to honour those who came before us and we’re happy to do it.”

Lt Andrew Knighten, weapons systems officer in the F-15E, said: “It’s pretty humbling, honestly, just for everyone that’s gone before us and for us to get to fly over and just honour them.”

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Dave Higgens/PA Wire

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The 10 men who died were all aged between 21-24

Planes that took part in the flypast

  • F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath
  • KC-135 Stratotanker
  • MC-130J Commando II
  • CV-22 Osprey from RAF Mildenhall
  • Typhoon from RAF Coningsby
  • Dakota from RAF Coningsby

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