Recently we have had news reports of two crashes which could have had the same physical end result (the loss of at least one person's life as a result of it). Unfortunately, the way the crashes were reported were startlingly similar.
I suppose you could say that we are lucky that Mr Alonso is in a fit state to put his version of events to the media (even if it was a couple of weeks after his crash).
We will obviously never know why the German co-pilot crashed the plane into the Alps - killing himself and everybody on board - however, I cannot have been the only person alarmed by the mess that the airline, as well as the media, made of reporting the first hours after the crash.
(I mentioned the airline because I saw the Twitter report denying it had crashed in the first place - the Twitter report said that there was "speculation" that the plane had crashed. Now, I haven't got much experience of an app called "Flight Radar" but - apparently - if that says a plane has stopped flying for some reason the chances are that it has.)
What I found truly astonishing was the parallels between the "reports" that first came out after Mr Alonso's crash and the Alps plane tragedy. Apart from the physical wreckage of both - which was reported on ad nauseum - there was not much else to go on so the reporters started speculating as to the causes of both crashes.
In the case of Mr Alonso, it was initially attributed to him having some kind of medical incident in the car - ranging from a minor blackout to a fullblown stroke. This was even after Jenson Button had complained about the handling of his car.
In the case of the Alps plane tragedy - after terrorism had been ruled out (as in a bomber or some other human), and mechanical failures were being discounted one by one, the black box voice recorder was found - this led to the worst kind of speculation because it risked tarring everybody who suffered depression with the same brush.
I read a rather funny comment piece on the "he crashed the plane deliberately because he suffered with depression" idea. I found it funny not because I have a twisted sense of humour but because it actually made perfect sense.
The exact words of the comment piece escape me but they made it clear that - not only are people with depression (and other Mental Health issues) capable of holding down a job, etc, but people in his age group were not dangerous, nor were Germans, nor were men (and nobody in the latter three groups were prevented from being anywhere near the cockpit of an aircraft merely because they belonged in those groups).
We need to be very careful about how we discuss and even (in some cases) demonise people's conditions - especially when it comes to tragedies like the Alps plane crash. There is more than enough stigma attached to Mental Health issues and physical (dis)abilities without them being blamed for any tragedies before we know the full story.
All I am asking for is sensitive reporting which doesn't immediately decide the full story before it is actually allowed to emerge. I am aware that we live in a world of 24 hour news - but the emphasis should be on news and not wild speculation.
I actually have some idea of what it is like to wait for news of a relative who was in danger of being caught up in a disaster - admittedly it was an earthquake and not a plane crash - but the same rules apply.
My Dad was in India on business a number of years ago when there were reports of an earthquake with the usual initial reports of major death tolls. I had not wanted him to go on the trip because I had been convinced he wouldn't return. The relief I felt when I heard his voice a few days after the event was indescribable. He told my Mum that he was nowhere near the earthquake (apart from being in the same country). He did come back safely.
We need to respect all the victims of tragedies - whether or not their actions caused them in the first place. (After all they are all human - even if their actions would lead us to believe otherwise - with friends and relatives who may be as puzzled as we are about why they did what they did.)
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