The baby who was orphaned in the tragedy of airplane crash in Rabat, 75 years ago
“I heard an airplane coming and told mummy: this plane is flying low and tried to go out, but didn’t manage. I came near the outside door because the plane crashed. There was a sort of darkness and a tremendous sound”.
Jessie Farrugia still remembers the tragedy that occurred near her house in Triq San Publiju in Rabat, 75 years ago. She was aged 14 and was sewing behind the window before everything suddenly changed.
”As we came out we found wires, here was in flames and a neighbour who lived near the corner was taken out.”
A magisterial inquiry at the National Archives shows that by 10.50 in the morning, the airplane was still at Ħal Far runway where it was declared fit to fly. Shortly afterwards, the Wellington Bomber, together with a Spitfire, participated in an exercise of a simulated attack. However, during the rehearsal, the Wellington crashed.
Just before 11.30 am, the Wellington Bomber crashed and destroyed various parts of houses until the engine fell on the house, corner with Triq San Publiju, and left various persons dead.
Over 20 persons died in the tragedy, including four members of the crew. The youngest victim was a three-month old baby. Jessie, who still lives in the same place, mentioned Mary Mifsud among the victims, a friend of hers. While Mary and her husband died, she said that the baby survived.
“She had the bottle in her mouth. Two ceiling beams fell, came down and the baby escaped death, while the parents were badly burnt.”
An inquiry estimate established that the damage in San Publiju, Konti Ruġġieru and Santa Marija roads was 11,000 lira. Photos show the efforts of police, air force and the cleansing department to remove the rubble and people rescued.
Laurence Ciantar, who lives in the street, recounted that his parents were affected by the tragedy. “The airplane fell in our street and when my mother was passing with my brother, the entrance hall was on fire and collapsed”.
Mrs Farrugia said that the fire continued burning for three days, while smoke continued for a week. This tragedy is commemorated with a plaque which was placed in the 80s on the facade of a building corner with Triq San Publiju on the initiative of Monsignor Ġwann Azzopardi. The plaque now needs maintenance.