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1960 plane crash commemorated

 Members of the Clonloghan Cemetery Group at the memorial headstone for the plane crash in 1960.   Photograph by Declan MonaghanTHE Alitalia plane crash of 1960, in which 34 people were killed, was commemorated at Clonloghan Cemetery on Wednesday evening.
The Italian ambassador to Ireland was represented at the event by Dr Fabio Bartolozzi, while Canon Reuben Butler gave a talk on the history behind the event.
The crash occurred in the early hours of February 26. The plane had made a 45-minute stop at Shannon, having been en route from Naples and Rome to New York. However, shortly after leaving the tarmac in Shannon, it crashed at the cemetery in Clonloghan, killing most of those on board.
Vincent McInerney of Stonehall is a member of the Clonloghan Cemetery Group but he was just a schoolboy at the time of the crash, which he remembers well.
“The plane must have come in very low because it hit the top of the headstones and it went through the graveyard and crashed into the next field. There was a lot of wreckage and it was burned up,” he recalled.
The Clare Champion report in the following week’s newspaper described the disaster.
“The huge plane, which was carrying some 7,000 gallons of fuel at the time, struck the ground about 20 yards from the corner of Clonloghan Cemetery. It ploughed through a stout, high wall, knocked over a number of headstones and then burned a path through pasture before breaking through a sod fence. It came to rest at the bottom of a hill in soft, marshy land.
“Shattered bits of fuselage, as well as cargo and the personal belongings of the passengers, were strewn over both fields, covering almost three-quarters of a mile. At the end of the burned corridor lay the gutted fuselage. Only the tail section remained reasonably intact.”
There was an eyewitness account from local man Jimmy Conheady.
“Our bedroom overlooks the scene of the crash and I had just gone to bed when I heard a crash and a blinding light lit up the bedroom. Our four children rushed into the room and my wife and I jumped to the window. There coming right towards us was the plane, which exploded after it hit the ditch of the second field. It had been coming to us until it exploded and then part of it swung to the right,” Mr Conheady remembered.
The crash made headlines around the world and The New York Times had a graphic eyewitness account of the terrible scene after the crash.
“The Shannon priest, the Rev Thomas Comerford, was one of the first to reach the scene. ‘I heard crying and screaming as if people were being burned to death,’ he said. ‘It was horrible. One old man who said he was a Capuchin monk staggered out badly burned. He said most of the people aboard were Catholics and he asked that they should be given the last rites. I took the man’s passport,’ the priest said, ‘and found his name was Giuseppi Cacioli with a forwarding address at Gunhill Road, the Bronx 67. The passport had an Italian address, which looked like Cappuccili, Aresso. It showed he was 52 years old.
“‘There were bodies scattered all over the field,’ the priest went on. ‘People were mixed up with the remains of sheep the plane had killed. Most of the bodies were horribly mutilated. People were screaming, sheep were crying and dogs were barking. It was like a scene from hell’,” Rev Comerford recalled.

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