Leeds United Air Crash Memories

David O'Leary

Life in 1998

In 1998,  David was 39 year old he was married to Joy

they had two children John who was 15 years old and Caira who was 12.

David was Leeds United Assistant Manager.


The last 25 years

…from a Daily Mail interview with David O’Leary 2022

It’s lovely having that time now around my son and daughter. I’m so grateful.’

Such sentiment takes O’Leary back to one night in March 1998. After a 3-0 defeat at West Ham, the aircraft carrying the Leeds team crashed shortly after take-off from Stansted Airport. It had climbed to 150 feet when an engine exploded. An investigation later revealed that the pilot’s actions — he aborted the take-off rather than continuing the ascent — saved the lives of all on board.

But O’Leary was also hailed as a hero. ‘I was next to the emergency door,’ he recalls. ‘Just as we lifted off there was an explosion, this awful shudder. We crashed back down and slid across a field. It felt like everything behind was coming forward on to you.

‘The engine was on fire. We had to get out pretty quick. People later said, “David O’Leary did great, he kicked the door open”. But let’s be straight — the other side was on fire, my side wasn’t. I didn’t have too many options!’

O’Leary injured his shoulder forcing open the door, scrambling along the wing and dropping to safety. ‘We were stood in a muddy field, all the fire engines racing towards us. I’ll never forget one of the crew asking Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink if he was OK. “Am I OK? You call that a f***ing take-off?”. It made us laugh but we were lucky. If we’d been at Heathrow we would have been on the M25. At Leeds-Bradford, already in the hills.

‘My daughter saw the news on TV before I’d had a chance to call home. She was shook up. A few years ago I went to see the film Sully with her (about a plane landing on the Hudson River in New York) and she was crying. It reminded her of what happened. It brought home how lucky we were.’

Message to the aircrew