Posing next to the stele after it was unveiled were (from left) Préfecture representative Emilie Nahon, President Mussington, Christian Champare, and Thierry Rogers.
MARIGOT–Relatives of the victims of the 1972 air crash that took the lives of twelve passengers from St. Martin and Guadeloupe obtained some measure of closure from the tragic incident when a memorial stele was unveiled on the roundabout opposite the former St. Martin Tourism Office on Friday.
Relatives approached President Louis Mussington with the memorial idea and he promised the families it would be done. Until now, no formal tribute had been paid to the victims of the air crash.
Air Guadeloupe’s DHC-6 Twin Otter was operating the PTP/SXM route (night flight) on December 24, 1972, when it went down into the waters of Simpson Bay, close to Princess Juliana International Airport, during the approach phase. There were no survivors and the cause of the crash was never explained.
The names of the deceased inscribed on the memorial are: Angèle Arrondell, Rodolph Brooks, Berno Champare, Monique Cyprien, Cécile Edmond, Athanese Freedom, Anne-Marie L’Etang, Maguy Lepierre, Thomas Jean Marie Édouard, Roy Rogers, Maxime Rollin (pilot) and Lovely Taurus.
Relatives attending the ceremony were from St. Martin and Guadeloupe. Presiding over the poignant occasion was President of the Collectivité Louis Mussington. Préfet Vincent Berton was represented by Emilie Nahon.
Thierry Rogers and Christian Champare, who respectively lost a father and brother in the crash, were the first to speak at the lectern on the accident.
“Very little evidence was found. The plane and bodies were never recovered in what remains a mystery to this day,” Rogers explained.
“St. Martin was dead that fateful night, all activities that were planned were cancelled,” added Champare describing the shock wave from the crash slowly filtering through the community.
Rogers said that 50 years later it had been a long process of obtaining names and documents.
“It’s been a long struggle but we finally managed to contact all the families except for one. Nevertheless, we are all connected and bonded to share what we have all been expecting, the unveiling of this memorial. We want to thank President Mussington and everyone who made this possible.
“It’s been a long wait but by paying homage in this way we are, symbolically, making sure that while our loved ones will always be missed, they will never be forgotten.”
Mussington recalled that he was just a boy standing outside the Catholic Church when he heard adults talking about the catastrophe. “Everyone was devastated. There were no dry eyes that night. Normally there would be dancing that night but nobody had the energy or desire. Next day we went to the airport to see if there might be some good news of survivors, but sadly, no.
“In choosing to assist in this event the Collectivité decided it is something that should never be forgotten. The duty to remember is an indispensable foundation to bind past and future generations. Even if it is a painful legacy of the past, the tragedy must be immortalised by the stele that we will unveil.”
A lady in the audience interrupted Nahon’s remarks, shouting out that bodies were recovered from the crash. The brief outburst was indicative of the conspiracy theories in the immediate aftermath that still surround the crash.
The stele was unveiled by Mussington, Thierry Rogers, Christian Champare and Nahon. Gwoka drumming was provided by Hélias Coquillas during the ceremony and Natisha Hanson sang a song following the laying of a wreath and the minute’s silence to remember the victims.
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