The last flight: the tragic story of the worst aviation accident in Slovenian history
A piece of white marble on a grave is actually a rich symbol. White stone, that symbolizes purity and innocence, by origin from Pohorje Mountain above Maribor, Slovenia, indicates the homeland. In the symbolism of stone are embedded gestures of young victims of the worst aviation accident in Slovenian history. Sergej Ničevski was a passenger on Adria Arways flight from Ljubljana Airport Brnik to Ajaccio, city in Corsica.
On the morning of December 1, 1981, the plane flew with 173 passengers and seven crew members on board.
This was Adria’s first flight to Corsica but, unfortunately, it was also the last one. Just before landing in Ajaccio the plane crashed into the 1.365-meter high San Pietro Mountain, killing all 180 people on board.
The accident was the result of a fatal mixture of factors: Campo dell’Oro Airport didn’t have a radar at the time of the crash and, in addition, due to poor visibility, the control tower was convinced that the airplane was located above the sea, when in fact, it was already 15 km inside the mountainous island. Moreover, the crew flew for the first time in that area and they didn’t know the airport and its surroundings, so they simply followed orders from the control tower. Furthermore, the recordings from the black box later revealed that the communication between the control tower and the cockpit was disturbed. If this was not enough, the weather was very bad and just before landing the airplane found itself surrounded by fog.
Villagers from the nearby village Petreto-Bicchisano under the mountain of San Pietro heard a loud bang, but due to dense fog did not see what happened and didn’t paid any attention.
Seven minutes after the control tower lost contact with the plane, an emergency search began, but they were searching in the wrong place.
Eventually, four hours after the accident, the wreckage of the aircraft was found by shepherds on the top of the San Pietro Mountain. The next day the rescuers reached the crash site, only to find out that there were any survivor. Remains of the corpses were transported to the village church, where they carried out the identification.
It was December 9, 1981, when a plane with 180 coffins landed at the Ljubljana airport. Victims that weren’t identified, were buried in a common grave at the Žale cemetery in Ljubljana, where a memorial reminds visitors of the tragic event while the other victims were buried in their hometown cemeteries. Such is the case of Sergej Ničevski himself, who is buried at the Pobrežje Cemetery in Maribor and has the word “Korzika” (in English Corsica) written on his grave.
For many years the tragic accident remained unexplained and the airplane parts as well as some personal belongings of the victims remained scattered on the San Pietro Mountain. The story had its epilogue in 2008 when the Government of Slovenia in cooperation with Adria Airways and Kompas, the Slovenian travel agency that organized the fatal in 1981, planned and funded a cleanup operation.
Thus, in May 2008, a team of about 60 members of mountain rescuers, firefighters, civil protection and soldiers, with the support of a helicopter of the Slovenian Army, removed about 27 tons of waste from the mountain, including larger pieces of the airplane.
Images from web – Google Research