Top 10 Worst Sports Tragedies

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On April 15, 2013, when two pressure cookers exploded during the Boston marathon, killing 3 people and injuring about 264 others, it shook the whole world to its core. While the ensuing days saw the police frantically searching for the two suspects, it was proven once again that sporting events, just like any other events are no longer safe. Unfortunately,this was not the first time that the world of sports was shaken by such a tragedy. For as long as we know, sports have been associated with war, competition, blood and gore. We know about the gladiators of Rome who died to the death fighting, football fans rampaging the field in a mad frenzy ending in stampede and killing of innocent fans, many a times, fans resorting to violence when their teams did not win. Certain moments make us scream at our televisions, the anxiety that grips us while watching a nail biting match, we mourn the loss of a game, we cheer our favorite sporting heroes but when the Boston bombings made the news, it reminded us that sporting history has been marred by a number of tragedies that the world will never forget. Here is a list of a few sports tragedies that still disturb us.

10. Superga Air Disaster

Superga Air Disaster

31 Dead, No Survivors

On 4 may 1949, a plane carrying the entire Torino AC football team crashed into the Superga hill, near Turin in northern Italy. The team which was popularly known as II Grande Torino was returning home from a friendly match in Lisbon, Portugal when the pilot deceived by terrible conditions crashed the plane into a wall at the rear of a basilica that adorned the Superga hill. All the 31 passengers on-board were killed which included 18 players, club officials, journalists and the team crew. Most of the dead bodies were damaged so badly by the crash that they could only be identified by the jewelry and photos found on them. This tragedy had a huge impact on Italian football, with over half a million Italians lining up the streets to watch the funeral procession, and about 30,000 people going to Superga to pay their respects to the beloved players. Vittorio Pozzo, who led the Italian team to victory in two successive world cups, was the team manager at the time was devastated uttering these words, “The Torino team is no more…it has disappeared…it is burnt…it has exploded.”

9. Hansie Cronje’s Death

Hansie Cronje’s Death

Wessel Johannes “Hansie” Cronje still remains one of the most successful and well known captains in the history on cricket. Born 25, September 1969, he was known to be one of the nicest guys with the South African government voting him as 11th greatest South African in 2004. However, the cricketing world was shocked to its core when he was accused of match fixing with the Delhi police having damning proof against him. He was banned from playing cricket or coaching for life. South Africa still considers him to be an iconic sportsman, even though his career was marred by match fixing scandals, Secret bank accounts and numerous shady deals. However,the worst was yet to come for the country that worshipped him, his untimely death in a plane crash. On 1 June 2002, he was on his way to a scheduled flight from Johannesburg to George when his plane was grounded, and he hitched a ride on a small charter airline as the only passenger. As fate would have it, the pilot lost visibility and was unable to land, crashing the plane into the Outeniqua Mountains, killing Cronje and the two pilots instantly. Many people still speculate whether he was murdered.

8. Bob Woolmer’s Death

Bob Woolmer’s Death

Although there have been many notable deaths in the history of sports, nothing shocked cricket fans more than the death of Bob Woolmer. Born on 14 may 1948, Robert Andrew Woolmer was an international cricketer, coach and commentator. He was famous for having coached a number of international cricket teams. In 2004, he was appointed coach of the Pakistani team, and it is during the 2007 world cup that he was found dead in his hotel room. Police had initially reported the cause of death to be a heart attack, but what caused widespread sensation was that they later backtracked and confirmed that Woolmer had been murdered. The Police reportedly did not wanted to create a scandal during the world cup .According to his wife, Gail, who was the last person he talked to, he very upset over Pakistan’s loss to Ireland which resulted in public humiliation in Lahore in a ritual burning of his effigy and chants of ‘death to Woolmer. ‘He was known to be an affable, respected and friendly person and his death shocked the whole cricketing world. Former South African caption Clive Rice controversially declared that he along with Hansie Cronje was murdered.

7. Heysel Stadium Disaster

Heysel Stadium Disaster

39 Dead, 600 Injured

The Heysel stadium disaster referred to as “the darkest hour in the history of the UEFA competitions” occurred on 29 may 1985 in Brussels, Belgium. During the 1985 European cup final between Juventus and Liverpool, two of the most famous and biggest clubs in Europe were facing each other for the first time. Before the match started Liverpool fans began taunting the Italian supporters who reacted by breaching a fence separating them form a neutral area. The fans were only separated by a temporary chain link fence which was easily scaled by the English supporters. Fearing that a brawl might break out Juventus fans attempted to escape by scaling the stadium’s perimeter wall, but the weight and the crowd caused the wall to collapse killing fans who were seated nearby as well as others who were trying to escape. Juventus supporters stormed into the field when they saw their fellow supporters being crushed under the wall, provoking the Belgian police into action. The match was played in spite of this disaster to prevent any further violence; however a 5 year ban was given to English clubs, with Liverpool being banned for six years and 14 Liverpool fans were arrested and charged guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

6. Andes Flight Disaster

Survivors Stand Beside Covered Wreckage

29 Dead, 16 Survivors

Probably known as one of the most horrific plane crashes to have ever occurred in the history of sporting airline disasters, this particular event occurred on 13 October 1972 and continued till 23 December 1972. What is remembered with horror and dread is that the plane survivors had to resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, was a chartered flight carrying 45 passengers which included the old Christians club rugby team from Uruguay who was going to play a friendly match in Chile, as well as their friends, family and associates. On the afternoon of 13 October when the flight began its course towards Santiago Chile, it could not pass through the Andes mountains due to bad weather so it had to proceed though one of the ‘passes’ through the mountain. This proved to be a fatal error as the pilot misjudged their position and crashed into the mountain .12 people died in the crash and many other succumbed to injuries and cold. The 27 remaining survivors faced difficulties in the freezing mountains, with little food, provisions and source of heat. When the survivors came to know that the search for them had been abandoned they in a desperate attempt to stay alive, had to pursue the nightmarish decision to feed on the dead passengers who were preserved in the snow. They were rescued about 72 days later when two survivors, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa a found a Chilean huaso who successfully alerted the authorities about the other survivors. This whole ordeal was made in a movie ‘Alive’ in 1993 as well as a book by Piers Paul Read titled ‘Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors.’ Their survival came to be known as The Miracle in the Andes.

5. Sabena Flight 548 Disaster

Sabena Flight 548 Disaster

72 Dead, No survivors

On February 15, 1961, Sabena Flight 548, a Boeing 707 aircraft carrying the United States figure skating team crashed en route to Brussels, Belgium due to a mechanical failure. The team was on its way to the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia, when the plane crashed while approaching Brussels for a final refueling stop. The whole United States figure skating team was killed including 11 members of the crew as well as family members, coaches and officials, including one person on the ground,, who was struck by debris. The crash was a devastating blow to the whole American nation, with President John F Kennedy issuing a statement of condolence and to mourn the loss of the team, the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships were cancelled.

4. Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster

44 Dead, 1 survivor

The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster is yet another sporting airline disaster to have occurred as recently as on 7 September 2011. The Yak-Service Flight 9633, a Yak-Service Yakovlev Yak-42, carrying players of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional ice hockey team as well as the coaching staff, crashed near Yaroslavl. Many eyewitness saw the plane bursting into flames with its nose plunged into the Volga river , leaving its rear part on dry land. The team was on its way to play a match in Minsk, Belarus when the tragedy occurred leaving the entire nation in mourning.43 people died on the crash site, and there were two survivors of which one died five days later at the hospital while the other, who was an avionics flight engineer, survived. The plane had been carrying several star members who had played in the North American NHL,Nashville Predators and Ottawa Senators.

3. Munich Air Disaster

Munich Air Disaster

23 Dead, 21 Survivors

Known as one of the most famous air crash in the history of sports, this tragic event occurred when on 6 February 1958, British European Airways Flight 609, carrying the Manchester United football team, nicknamed the ‘busby babes’ as well as a number of supporters and journalists, crashed whilst taking off. The takeoff had earlier been aborted twice, and the team was sent back to the terminal and told that they would be returning the next day instead. The plane’s captain however, attempted a third takeoff which proved to a massive error and the plane ended up ploughing off the end of the runway and crashing into a house. Twenty people died at the crash site while others who were knocked unconscious died later, although 21 passengers managed to survive.

2. The Munich Massacre

The Munich Massacre

17 Dead

Arguably one of the most horrific massacres in the history of sports, the above image is synonymous with the terrible disaster, becoming the most well-known and iconic photos of the event. During the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostages by members of the Palestinian group Black September who demanded the release of 234 political prisoners held in Israeli jails. The terrorists murdered a weightlifter and a wrestling coach after which they were drawn into a negotiation which proved unsuccessful. They took the hostages to the German military airport with the aim of taking them to the middle east, however German snipers opened fire which ultimately led to the killing of the remaining athletes along with a German police officer and two members of the black September. It’s been widely reported that Germany was well aware of the attack having received a tip off earlier, but failing to take it seriously.

1. Hillsborough Disaster

Hillsborough Disaster

96 Dead, 766 Injured

The Hillsborough disaster which is regarded as “the worst stadium-related disaster in British history and one of the world’s worst football disasters” was an incident which occurred on 15 April 1989 at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield, England. It was during the start of the FA cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham that a crush occurred on the steel fenced terraces of the Hillsborough stadium. The event has largely been blamed on the failure of police crowd control which occurred due to overcapacity in the pens. What resulted was severe crushing in the pens with several fans climbing over side fences in order to escape. Over 96 people were killed and more than 700 were injured.  The response of the police and organizers to the disaster was slow and badly coordinated, and the event continues to flame up debates and arguments. In 2012, the case was opened again, and it was concluded that the 96 victims could had survived if they had received immediate medical attention.


5 Responses

  1. MitchBaxter

    January 17, 2014 6:14 am

    Have to agree with John Smith. The 1970 Southern Airways crash, with 75 dead, killed an entire college football team and coaching staff, along with the booster club.

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