As a hot air balloon crash looms on the horizon for Neighbours, with Lauren’s hen party turning into a nightmare when Jacka sabotages the group’s journey and brings the balloon crashing down to earth, it seems soap bosses are having to get ever-more creative with their disaster storylines.
Here are some of our favourites from over the years – from plummeting helicopters to collapsing helter-skelters.
1. Coronation Street tram crash, 2010
A simple tram crash would just be a snooze-fest, wouldn’t it? Coronation Street went one better when it celebrated its 50th anniversary, with a live episode featuring the aftermath of a gas explosion and tram crash.
Viewers saw the deaths of Ashley Peacock (Steven Arnold) and Molly Dobbs (Vicky Binns) – but not before Molly had revealed to Sally Webster (Sally Dyvenor) that she had given birth to her husband’s lovechild.
Oh, and there was an emergency marriage, AND Fiz Stape (Jennie McAlpine) gave birth prematurely, which incidentally was the first birth ever to be acted out live on a soap opera.
2. Hollyoaks wedding bus crash, 2012
It was certainly a wedding day to remember. A lavish double wedding between Tony Hutchinson (Nick Pickard) and Cindy Cunningham (Stephanie Waring) as well as Ste Hay (Kieron Richardson) and Doug Carter (PJ Brennan) turned tragic when the party was hit by an out-of-control minibus full of sixth formers. The teens were helping Ruby Button (Anna Shaffer) and Jono (Dylan Llwellyn) elope to Gretna Green to get married. (I know, keep up.)
The bus took an unexpected diversion to the main ceremony to deliver its cargo of forgotten wedding cakes. The eloping couple were being chased by Esther Bloom (Jazmine Franks) and Bart McQueen (Jonny Clarke), but the cause of the crash was little Leah Hay who stepped out into the road at exactly the wrong moment.
Disaster! The bus swerved and ploughed into the wedding ceremony, killing Maddie Morrison (Scarlett Bowman), Neil Cooper (Tosin Cole), Rhys Ashworth (Andrew Moss) and – later – Jono. Is there any worse omen for your wedding day? None of the marriages survived very long after the accident.
3. EastEnders fairground disaster, 2004
Remembered mainly for being either brilliantly or disappointingly lame depending on your views about collapsing helter-skelters, the great EastEnders fairground disaster of 2004 has gone down in soap history.
The slide was erected as part of Albert Square’s centenary celebrations but the happy occasion soon turned into chaos when the whole thing fell apart. Although there was plenty of drama and one resident dramatically said it was “like the Blitz”, injuries were mainly confined to Lynne Hobbs, who lost her unborn child after being hit by falling debris.
The episode is also the source of the famous line: “Get Den Watts, he’ll know what to do!”
4. Coronation Street lorry crash, 1979
It’s no wonder Tracy Barlow is so messed up: when she was just a baby in her pram, she was caught up in a nail-biting storyline combining both a lorry crash AND a kidnapping.
The youngster was snatched away by a stranger while her mum Dierdre was in the Rovers Return asking the landlady about a knitting pattern, shortly before a truck ploughed into the building. Tracy was presumed to have been crushed to death, so it was a big relief when Dierdre found out she had been kidnapped in the nick of time. Phew.
5. Emmerdale plane crash, 1993
Kick-starting a soap-world trend of large objects falling disastrously out of the sky, Emmerdale had a ratings hit on its hands when a large plane crashed into the little hamlet and caused complete devastation.
The stunt cost £1 million to stage but pulled in around 17 million viewers. To put that into perspective, the Great British Bake Off was the most viewed TV show last year with an audience of only 15 million. Impressive.
6. Emmerdale helicopter explosion, 2015
Soap bosses decided they were on to something with the plane. So why not follow up with a helicopter crash?
In an insanely complicated series of events, a helicopter came crashing down into Debbie Dingle (Charley Webb) and Pete Barton (Anthony Quinlan)’s wedding reception at the village hall. The copter was in trouble after being hit by an exploding gas canister, which in turn had exploded because Chrissie (Louise Marwood) set fire to her estrange husband Robert’s car perilously close to flammable material. A powerful warning about health and safety.
The plummeting aircraft arrived on the scene – that is, fell into the building – just as the newlyweds were having showdown about Debbie’s secret affair with Pete’s brother. That affair was soon the least of anyone’s worries as the disaster killed Val Pollard (Charlie Hardwick), Ross Barton (Michael Parr) and Ruby Haswell (Alicya Eyo).
7. Casualty helicopter crash, 2016
The helicopter is back! This time an air ambulance collided with a drone (how very 2016) and plunged into the hospital, where veteran character Charlie Fairhead was being presented with a cake to celebrate 30 years at Holby.
The disaster severely injured little Grace Beauchamp (Emily Carey) – who was already in hospital having just survived a horrific car crash.
8. Hollyoaks skydiving accident, 2009
A twist on the idea of aircrafts killing people by falling out of the sky: a person dying by falling out of the sky. Sarah Barnes (Louis Batley)’s death in a skydiving accident was a first for a British soap opera and won Spectacular Scene Of The Year at the British Soap Awards.
The whole thing was a tragic mix-up, as Lydia Hart (Lydia Helly) cut the strings of Sarah’s parachute before the skydive, intending instead to murder Zoe Carpenter (Zoe Lister) after a love triangle gone wrong.