On the 30th December 1993 the sleepy village of Beckindale suffered its biggest disaster when an Eastern European airliner plummeted from the sky and crashed on the village. The plane crash is regarded as Emmerdale's biggest disaster storyline.
The plane itself was flying over Britain from Eastern Europe on its way to Canada when it exploded over Beckindale. Fireballs shot down from the sky and much of the village lay in ruins. Fires and explosions ripped through cottages, main roads were blocked, black smoke was everywhere, Beckindale's green and pleasent land was engulfed in flames and chemicals and debris. All 250 people on the plane plus 9 villagers including Archie Brooks, Mark Hughes, Leonard Kempinski and Elizabeth Pollard were killed and Chris Tate was left paralysed.
The new horse stables at Home Farm, owned by the Tate family suffered the first hit. A huge burning piece of wreckage fell down and the fireball erupted at the front of the stables exploding into the stables beyond.
Nick Bates and Archie Brooks were walking back to Demdyke Row on one of the moors on the edge of the village. In fact Archie had walked out of The Woolpack in protest after a row with Seth Armstrong. Nick followed him. As he saw Archie at the top of the hill he called him but their attention was drawn by a huge rumbling noise and the sky lit up. Nick was blinded by aviation fuel. Archie was knocked back by a wall of flame and then a huge explosion followed as a fireball erupted on the hill, exploding. Archie was engulfed in flames and vapourised.Meanwhile inside the Woolpack landlord Alan Turner was hositing a Dickensian Evening and was about to do a reading to the customers who also came in fancy dress when his and their attention was stopped by a huge rumbling noise which was getting louder. The power failed then the windows the the pub blew in as flames shot through into the pub sending many of the customers falling to their feet. Joe Sugden was driving his mother Annie and stepfather Leonard Kempinski down a country lane in the village on their way to Leeds Airport. Annie's attention was drawn to a huge yellow glow coming from across the moor towards the village. A burning wing piece from the plane came hurtling towards the Land Rover. Joe swerved to avoid it but went crashing into the ditch.
Back at the stables of Home Farm, Frank Tate, Kim Tate and Viv and Vic Windsor were using water from the trough to try and put out the fires. A huge explosion in the opposite field drew Frank's attention to it. The horses in the stables were burning and crying out loudly in panic. Vic and Viv's children Scott, Kelly and Donna had run to safety with Samson the horse who was not in the stables at the time when the fireball struck. It then rained flowers.Back in the village, the Mc Allister family, who had arrived in the village a few weeks before, were looking on outside their front door at the explosions and fires that were ripping through houses in the village. Bernard McAllister decided he had to go and find out what was going on. Meanwhile on the moors just outside the village, Nick Bates, blinded by aviation fuel was wandering aimlessly around shouting for Archie. He then fell into a crater formed by the force of a huge piece of wreckage from the plane hitting thr ground. The Home Farm stables continued to burn. Frank Tate told Kim to stay out of the stables and not try and rescue the horses. He then went down to the village to see if Chris and Zoe were alright.
Jack and Sarah Sugden stood outside their farmhouse, Hawthorn Cottage and looked on in shock at the fires and explosions that were ripping through Beckindale. Sarah asked Jack what the disaster was in which Jack replied "I dont know but its mysterous". Jack said he had to go and find out what it was. Frank Tate drove down the Hotten Road into the village towards Main Street. He passed a half demolishes burning house on his left and burning cars, fallen lampposts and looked up at the shattered windows of the cottages. He parked in front of The Woolpack.
Episodes which covered the plane crash
- Episode 1829 (30th December 1993)
- Episode 1830 (4th January 1994)
- Episode 1831 (5th January 1994)
- Episode 1832 (6th January 1994)
- The morning after, 31st December 1993, the army as well as many ambulance men, firemen and police officers scoured through the wreckage for clues as to how the plane crash happened. The local village hall became a temporary shelter and the area was cordoned off. Many residents were taken to Hotten General Hospital for treatment for injuries sustained by wreckage or for shock. The bodies of Elizabeth Pollard, Leonard Kempinski and Mark Hughes were found. Elizabeth's was found in a field surrounded by plane debris and Mark's was found in the rubble of Whiteley's Cottage, still clinging to the hoover he was returning to Lynn. Nick Bates, blinded by aviation fuel, was found and hospitalised and Chris Tate was airlifted to hospital. As was Annie Sugden. Alice Bates was found alive among the rubble of Demdyke Row and this was said to be a miracle.
- In January 1994, the ruined remains of Demdyke Row were demolished, as was the rubble from the wine bar. Whiteley's Farm's charred remains were demolished as was the cottage on Hotten Road and Kim's Stables. Elizabeth Pollard, Mark Hughes and Leonard Kempinski were buried in the churchyard a few weeks after the disaster. Archie Brooks body was never recovered but as he had been hit by a fireball, he is presumed to have been vapourised by the flames and jet fuel. The spot was known as Archie's Hill. The 250 bodies from the plane itself were sent back to their home country in Eastern Europe for burial.
Village buildings destroyed in the plane crash
- Demdyke Row - Hit by a fireball which destroyed much of the terrace.
- Kim's Stables, Home Farm - Hit by a fireball.
- The Woolpack Wine Bar Annexe - Hit by a fireball and destroyed.
- Whiteley's Farm - Hit by a fireball.
- Cottage, Hotten Road, Beckindale - Hit by wreckage.
Long term effects 31 Dec 1993-present
- Chris Tate was confined to a wheelchair after being trapped in the rubble of the wine bar after a fireball hit it. This was to leave him a very bitter man.
- Throughout January and February 1994, looters and sightseers descended upon the village after the plane crash put it on the map. So in May 1994, the village was renamed Emmerdale as a tribute to the Sugden's farm and to try and erase the memory of the tragic accident. Even the stonework of the signs of village hall and church which had "Beckindale" etched into it was given new stone plates which said "Emmerdale" such as Emmerdale Village Institute.
- In June 1994, Annie Kempinski retired to Spain.
- In 1995, Zak Dingle wanted to scour the fields with a metal detector for plane wreckage.
- In 1997, when Eric Pollard married Dee De La Cruz, it was said how his previous wife Elizabeth had died on the night of the plane crash and how Eric may have used that as a cover for killing her as she was going to see him go to jail.
- In March 2000, after the bus crash, a positive Alan Turner said "Well we have survived a plane crash. I am sure we can survive this".
- In November 2003, a team of TV reporters descended on the village to film a documentary on the 10th anniversary of the plane crash. One reporter even asked Nicola Blackstock what were her memories of the crash and Jack Sugden said she was not living in the village when the crash occurred. Nicola moved to the village in January 2001, 7 years after the plane crash. Eric Pollard headed the 10th anniversary documetary scheme but when they started to ask why Elizabeth Pollard had died, Eric called the whole thing off.
- In February 2009, Annie Sugden said how she lost her husband and her stepson Mark, and how the farm was devastated and how, 3 months later, her new granddaughter woke her up from a coma and saved her life.
- In December 2009, on the 16th anniversary of the plane crash, Zak Dingle said they are having another memorial service to it. And Eric said that 16 years ago that plane came down.
- In December 2010, 17 years after the plane crash, Eric started recieveing letters signed "Elizabeth". He thought it was his foster daughter Amy Wyatt but the real culprit was Michael Feldmann, who wanted revenge on the 17th anniversary. He was sure that Eric had used the plane crash to cover up the fact he killed Elizabeth. Eric explained to Val that he was chasing her to stop her going to Frank Tate about the stolen bracelet. He said that night the tree near to her burst into flames and fireballs came down. He went back and found she was dead and then left. He said he wanted to kill her but the plane beat him to it. Val Pollard, his wife, read the autopsy on Elizabeth and it said she died from being hit by wreckage. Michael accepted this and left the village.
- In October 2015, Lawrence White said to Eric how he heard his wife Elizabeth died under mysterious circumstances and used that to threaten Eric into keeping his mouth shut about Chrissie starting an explosion.
Behind The Scenes
In the episode of Brookside, dated 5th January 1994, character Mick Johnson is reading a newspaper with the front page headline "AIR DISASTER TOLL RISES - Village Mourns As Many Die", reflecting the events in Emmerdale. Ironically, Brookside creator Phil Redmond was recently bought in to rescue Emmerdale as the show was facing the axe. He had fresh ideas for the show, but the plane crash had been thought of as a storyline a few years earlier.