Aberfan survivor Bernard Thomas dies from coronavirus

Jimmy Nsubuga
·3-min read
Bernard Thomas
Bernard Thomas, 63, died from coronavirus (BBC Wales)

A man who survived the Aberfan disaster when he was nine years old has died after contracting COVID-19.

Bernard Thomas, 63, was pulled from the rubble when coal slurry slid on to the Pantglas primary school in Wales on 21 October 1966.

In total 144 people died in the tragedy, including 116 primary school children.

His brother Andrew told the BBC he had “faded away” in hospital on Wednesday, ten minutes after removing his oxygen mask to eat breakfast.

He said: "Bernard was a real character and his death has come as a shock to us as a family and the community of Aberfan."

"We can't be sure where he caught Covid, but he had an eye appointment at the Royal Glamorgan hospital on 21 December.

"A few days later, he became ill and at Prince Charles hospital, he tested positive for Covid-19."

Read more: Couple in their 50s fined after driving 120 miles to watch seals during lockdown

Rescue workers toil in the huge pile of rubble, after the collapse of a slag tip at Aberfan, Wales, Oct. 22, 1966. Many of the local children were killed when the rubble engulfed the village schoolhouse. (AP Photo)
Rescue workers toil in the huge pile of rubble, after the collapse of a slag tip at Aberfan, Wales (AP)

Andrew said they had spoken regularly on the phone and he told him he was getting better.

Bernard was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress 50 years after the Aberfan disaster and told S4C he "still heard the sounds of children screaming."

He lived with his 90-year-old mother Gwen before he died and had a second brother called Robert.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus death toll in the UK has passed 80,000, with a further 1,035 people being confirmed dead on Saturday within 28 days of testing positive.

There were also another 59,937 daily cases, bringing the total number of infections to 3,017,409, according to official data.

Doctors have warned pressure on the NHS could get worse in the coming weeks, as figures for cases, hospital admissions and deaths hit record highs.

The government has doubled down on its “stay at home” message by launching a new advert, fronted by England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, urging everyone in England to “act like you’ve got” coronavirus.

Read more: Student turns COVID train seat cover into crop top and sells it on Depop

Rescue workers toil in a huge pile of rubble beside the school, after the collapse of a slag-tip at Aberfan, Wales, Oct. 22, 1966. Many of the local schoolchildren were kiled when the rubble engulfed the village school. (AP Photo)
Many of the local schoolchildren were killed (AP)

Cases were estimated to have been as high as 100,000 per day at the peak of the first wave in April.

But scientists advising the Government estimate there are currently more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000 which they believe puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than ever during the pandemic.

They believe the current lockdown may lead to a plateau of cases of coronavirus across the UK rather than the dramatic cut seen following the March and April lockdown.

Government death figures continue to be affected by a lag in the publication of recent data and will contain some deaths that took place over the Christmas and New Year period that have only just been reported.

Watch: What is long COVID?