A plane crash 66 years ago claimed the lives of 23 people, and remains the worst incident of its kind to take place in North Wales. The Aer Lingus C47 Dakota had been travelling from Northolt Aerodrome in London to Dublin on the night of 10 January 1952 when it crashed into Cwm Edno on the slopes of Moel Siabod.
The aircraft, named St Kevin, was caught in heavy turbulence as it flew through Snowdonia, with the crash later being explained at an enquiry as having been caused by “a powerful downcurrent of air”, which led to the aircraft losing a significant amount of altitude in a very short space of time, and striking the mountainside near Llyn Gwynant.
The first rescuers on site were presented with a devastating scene of destruction. Rescuers found the blazing wreckage strewn over a bog formed by the Edno River, and it was apparent from the start there could be no survivors. Men of the Caernarvonshire Fire Service, who were the first on the scene of the disaster, waded thigh deep through the bog to render what assistance they could.
The search for the bodies of the 23 victims was eventually called off after five days of toiling in shocking circumstances. Captain Scott, the chief engineer for Aer Lingus, shook hands with every member of the recovery party, telling them: “You have done a splendid job under terrible conditions.” The recovered bodies were later taken from Caernarfon’s Ysbyty Eryri to Dublin via RAF Valley.
Mr J Dargan of Aer Lingus praised locals for their efforts: “The people of the area have been wonderful. We were amazed by the cooperation received from everyone, and the helpfulness and hard work of the police, fire service, and RAF personnel.”
Dr E Gerald Evans, the pathologist to the Welsh Regional Hospital Board and Home Office, stated at the opening of the inquest that death had been instantaneous for the three crew members and 20 passengers, adding that the bodies were mutilated by the impact of the crash. Four bodies were never accounted for, while others could not be clearly identified.
Twelve of the victims were interred at Caernarfon’s Llanbeblig Cemetery, marked with a large tomb and headstone commemorating the devastating accident which shook the county. A stone memorial was placed in the ground close to the crash site at Cwm Edno in Snowdonia National Park.