February 6 forever be remembered by everyone who is connected with Manchester United. The world, and especially the sports fraternity, was rocked on this day in 1958, when United lost eight of its players among 23 other fatalities and 21 survivors in a plane crash.
2021 marks 63 years since the Munich air disaster, as their chartered plane, British European Airways Flight 609 crashed on take-off at Munich-Riem airport. In early 1958, under their legendary Scottish manager Matt Busby, Manchester United made it through to the semi-finals of the European Cup after beating Red Star Belgrade.The team was even nicknamed as ‘Busby Babes’ for their sporting success.
The tragedy happened as the team were en route from a European Cup game. Busby and his players and staff boarded a BEA aircraft at Belgrade to fly back to Manchester. The plane made a pit stop at Munich to refuel. After it was refuelled, the crew attempted twice to take off, failing due to engine problems. However, the crew was eager and attempted a third at taking off. Between the plane's aborted second and catastrophic third take-off attempts, heavy snow had caused the runway to be filled in a thick blanket of slush.
After two failed take-off attempts, the nervous players had re-boarded the plane. The pilot, however, had rejected an overnight stay and went for a third effort despite the presence of heavy snow. Weather conditions had slowed the plane down so much that it could not reach a high enough speed to take off. The choice of taking off resulted in the aircraft skidding at the end of the runway, crashing through a fence surrounding the airport and into a house nearby.
Of the 44 on board, 21 lost their lives in the immediate tragedy, three others died at the hospital later. Seven United players Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Mark Jones, David Pegg, Liam Whelan, Tommy Taylor and captain Roger Byrne died at the scene,while an eighth Duncan Edwards died 15 days later in a hospital.