20 years ago today, the world’s first supersonic passenger aircraft crashed

26 Jul 2020 / 22:35 H.

ON JULY 25, 2000, I had returned to Paris after four weeks of covering the Tour de France and was in the office waiting for my flight back to my home base Nice. It was a quiet day for news and that afternoon I relaxed in the office.

Paris photographer Philippe Wojazer told me, “because it’s quiet, there isn’t any need for the two of us here, I’m going back to my place.” I remember seeing him take his motorbike helmet and then seeing a news flash that said, “Plane crash at Roissy.” The adrenaline was pumping in the office when a second news flash announced “It is a Concorde.”

Philippe told me to head to Roissy on a motorbike with a driver and he would stay at the office to receive my photos. On the way to Roissy, I could see a column of smoke in the distance. Immediately I realized the severity of the situation and the fact that it was a Concorde heightened the news value of the event. Quickly we arrived close to the crash site but it was already surrounded by police who had blocked access to the area and the surrounding two miles.

After a moment’s consideration I told the motorbike driver, “We are going to break the barrier.” And that is what we did, despite the reluctance of my driver. While passing them, two police officers tried to grab my shirt to stop us. Finally, we arrived at the field where the Concorde had crashed. There was a lot of smoke and until that moment I hadn’t realized that the Concorde had crashed into a hotel. After taking several general view pictures, I started to cross the field to get closer to the crash site. In the distance I could see police officers running towards me and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to continue to take pictures for long.

I saw the plane’s wheels and the firemen surrounding the plane. I turned around and saw the police were now practically on me. I had started to take pictures of the site. Quickly, I took out the disc from my camera and hid it before being detained by the police and escorted from the site.

I got my laptop back and immediately sent my photos to Philippe, who had stayed at the office. We were the first news organization to transmit pictures of the crash. I remember talking to my Swiss colleague, Ruben Sprich, who told me that we had made all the deadlines for the Swiss newspapers.

Moments later, Philippe called me and told me that he had found and bought a photograph of the crash taken by a plane spotter. It showed the Concorde with flames coming out of it shortly before the crash. - Reuters

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