One of the most fantastically unbelievable aircraft accidents in aviation history actually occurred on the ground. On a foggy Sunday afternoon on March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747s, – a KLM and a Pan Am flight – each packed to the full with passengers, collided on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport on the island of Tenerife. One of the planes had just refuelled with 55 tonnes of fuel and on impact it immediately ignited, unleashing one of the most tremendous fireworks display ever witnessed anywhere.
Of the 645 people who had started out on these two flights, only 62 were left alive. All the rest, 583 in total, perished in that accident, including everyone on the KLM plane. To date this particular accident is still considered the worst disaster in aviation history, at least in terms of the number of people killed.
The planes had been diverted to Los Rodeos Airport in Tenerife because of a bomb threat at Gran Canaria Airport, situated on one of the other islands, where they were initially meant to land. Afterwards, this airport re-opened, and the planes at Tenerife began to take off for Gran Canaria, to complete their journey. It was during a confusion at takeoff that these two planes collided with one another.
In many official records, the number of survivors in this accident is indicated as 61, not 62. And even in many accounts of this story little mention is made of the one person who probably was the most amazing survivor of this horror. The reason no or little is mentioned about this particular survivor is because she was not actually on the planes when they collided. She had gotten off the KLM plane at Tenerife, against airline and airport rules, because she wanted to be with her boyfriend, who lived in Tenerife.
“I miss him so much”, she had told her two friends who were travelling with her on the KLM plane. “I just have to see him.” She tried to persuade her two friends to get off at Tenerife too, but they would not.
The rules, however, required Robina to exit the plane at Gran Canaria. If she wished to see her boyfriend, she would have to take a connecting flight from there to Tenerife. The flight attendant with whom she shared her wish not to re-board the plane at Los Rodeos firmly told that she wasn’t allowed to leave the flight because she was enroute whereby your ticket only allows you to get through immigration under certain internationally-agreed conditions.
But no, Robina decided. She wouldn’t spend another night away from her boyfriend. She lived on the islands, after all. So, she simply left her ticket on the counter and walked out of the airport, disregarding any consequences that she might have to face. She never even bothered with her luggage; she would pick it up later from her friends.
Through this simple act born out of love, Robina van Lanschot would become the sole survivor on the KLM flight. She had been saved by love.
When I consider this story, and since I know that God controls all the affairs of men from above, I am left wondering: Is there not a lesson that God wants to teach us through this incident?
Might God have been telling the entire world (since this accident is the most notable of all airline accidents); might God not have been speaking to us all, through this single incident, that with Him love is all that matters?
I don’t know, y’know… just thinking.
Robina and her boyfriend never broke up. Theirs was genuine love. They are still alive, together, reliving and reflecting the power of love to whoever would care to take notice.