31 March 2006

Ulster air crash that inspired a Hollywood epic

Belfast Telegraph

True story behind movie recalled by eyewitness William

By Maureen Coleman
31 March 2006

A county Antrim pensioner, who was a fireman during the Second World War, has recalled how a plane crash on Cavehill inspired a Hollywood movie.

Production on the star-studded Closing the Ring began in Belfast last week, under the direction of Lord Attenborough.

The film is based on a true story about a US B-57 bomber plane which crashed into Cavehill in 1944, killing all 10 men on board.

A ring belonging to one of the gunners was found at the scene and sparked a long journey to find the fiancee of the man to whom it belonged.

The film stars Mischa Barton, Shirley MacLaine and Pete Postlethwaite.

Islandmagee man William Norris (82) was one of the fire crew called out to the devastating scene of the plane crash 62 years ago.

Up to 10 firefighters from Whitla Street reached the scene above Ben Madigan Park, but discovered that no-one had survived the crash.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Norris said: "I still remember that day well. It was rather foggy and the plane had come down over Belfast Lough, crashing just above what is now Ben Madigan Park," he said.

"There was nothing we could do for the men on board. The fire was very much ablaze when we got there and it was our job to control the fuel tanks in the wings and keep them from bursting.

"We were told there were 10 men on the plane but an eleventh one was found, who was supposedly a vagabond who was sleeping rough. He was never identified.

"It was a very sad day but because it was war-time the tragedy wasn't as well known as it would have been today."

Mr Norris said that the Hollywood version of events was slightly different from what actually happened on the day.

"Well, the film tells of a dying man giving the ring to someone and asking him to track down his fiancee back home, but that's not what happened.

"They were all dead, but there were a lot of kids around at the time and one found the ring.

"It was years later that he actually managed to track down the man's widow and return the ring to her.

"But it's a lovely story and hopefully the movie will show that," added Mr Norris.

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