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Is Emmerdale the deadliest soap on TV?

The village of Emmerdale has had its fair share of disasters over the years. (ITV)
The village of Emmerdale has had its fair share of disasters over the years. (ITV)

Is Emmerdale soapland’s deadliest soap? Sure, Coronation Street has had a sinkhole and EastEnders the odd pub fire, but when it comes to freak disasters, that one small village in Yorkshire has now become notorious.

For the first two decades of its on-screen life, it was a relatively peaceful place to live. But ever since a certain plane-related incident in 1993, it’s seemed as though death has been stalking the Dales.

Now, Emmerdale is set to mark its 50th anniversary with a deadly storm – by our reckoning, the third freak weather occurrence of this nature we’ve seen on the ITV soap. Only this time, it is apparently going to be different. “It’s all in daytime,” promises boss Jane Hudson, “so you can actually see what’s happening and what’s going on.”

Read more: King Charles stuns Emmerdale cast with support

How distinctive it is remains to be seen, but there is now a nagging feeling that the ante can’t possibly be upped any higher. Especially when you consider all the devastation that’s been depicted down the decades.

Here, in time for the anniversary, is our pick of the top Emmerdale disasters...

Emmerdale's plane crash (1993)

Editorial use only
From ITV Studios

EMMERDALE: 50 UNFORGETTABLE YEARS
Sunday 16th October 2022 on ITV

Archive Picture shows: Emmerdale Plane Crash Disaster - Frank Tate, as played by Norman Bowler, watches balls of flame fall from the sky and he heads to the villiage to see what has happened. (Ep 1829 - 30th December 1993).
'Emmerdale - Plane Crash Disaster' TV Series - 30 Dec 1993

This one-off special documentary celebrating 50 years of Emmerdale tells the story of how a sleepy daytime afternoon series about rural folk became the award-winning, ratings-busting, peak-time drama that it is today.  

A mixture of compelling classic Emmerdale clips and rarely seen gems will be mined from the archive for viewers to relish. From family feuds, fires and fights to more light hearted moments from life on the farm and in the village that goes by the name of - Emmerdale.

They will feature alongside contributions from much-loved cast members, as the stars of Emmerdale past and present watch back their famous storylines to share reflections on their characters and memories from across the years.

With a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes secrets and anecdotes, the acclaimed cast will remember key moments from the last five decades.

This milestone celebratory tribute will also recall some of the standout 74 weddings, 43 births and 105 deaths in the show since 1972, whilst reminiscing over some of the show’s most popular family dynasties including The Sugdens, The Tates and The Dingles. 

Along the way, we’ll discover the original ambitions of Emmerdale Farm’s creator - the playwright Kevin Laffan, how the TV critics and viewers responded to the show and its early depiction of rural life, and ultimately how it has transformed to reflect the changing lives and appetites of its loyal audience.

(C) ITV

For further information please contact Peter Gray
Mob 07831460662 /  peter.gray@itv.com

This photograph is (C) ITV and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme EMMERDALE: 50 UNFORGETTABLE YEARS  or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website www.itvpictures.com
Frank Tate, as played by Norman Bowler, watches balls of flame fall from the sky on Emmerdale in 1993. (ITV)

Prior to the Beckindale Air Disaster, life in the village had been more concerned with ploughing than pyrotechnics. But all that was to change thanks to input from former Brookside boss Phil Redmond, who’d been tasked with turning a cosy daytime show into a peak-time melodrama with cliffhangers to match rivals Corrie and EastEnders.

His biggest moment came with the crashing of an airliner into the local countryside – a stunt that gave Emmerdale its highest-ever rating of 18 million, as well as four victims, with Mark Hughes, Elizabeth Pollard, Archie Brooks and Leonard Kempinski all meeting their maker.

Longer term, it all set in motion the notion that each subsequent stunt had to outdo the one that’d come before…

Emmerdale: The New Year’s Eve storm (2003)

Sheree Murphy (Tricia Dingle) with Mark Charnock (Marlon Dingle) during the Freak storm of 2003 in Emmerdale. (ITV/Shutterstock)
Sheree Murphy (Tricia Dingle) with Mark Charnock (Marlon Dingle) during the Freak storm of 2003 in Emmerdale. (ITV/Shutterstock)

It was here that the curse of being married to Marlon Dingle originated thanks to estranged wife Tricia getting crushed under the weight of a collapsing pub during a tumultuous storm. The epic downpour came right at the end of 2003 – and just at the moment when Tricia had forgiven Marlon for playing away with Charity.

Lightning bolts were seen striking first an oak tree and then the Woolpack, a great chunk of wall from which came crashing down on top of Tricia. After being found by her husband in the rubble, Tricia uttered her final poignant words of “I came back, Marlon”. But if only the chef had stayed single after this loss – he could have been spared so much heartache.

Emmerdale: The Woolpack siege (2013)

Cameron Murray (Dominic Power) holding hostages during the Woolpack siege of 2013. (ITV)
Cameron Murray (Dominic Power) holding hostages during the Woolpack siege of 2013. (ITV)

Yet more torrential rain – this time, a freak weather event that coincided with serial killer Cameron Murray deciding to take all the Woolpack regulars hostage and threatening to shoot dead anyone who tried to escape.

Read more: Emmerdale's 50th anniversary spoilers revealed

Needless to say, attempts were made to escape, with Alicia getting shot in the stomach and Chas and Debbie fleeing to the pub cellar, into which rainwater was soon gushing. A struggle for survival ensued, but all soap villains must eventually get their comeuppance – hence Cameron not making it out alive.

The cause of his demise? Electrocution, after coming into contact with the pub’s lights while wet.

Emmerdale: The falling helicopter (2015)

The explosion that took down a helicopter in Emmerdale. (ITV/Shutterstock)
The explosion that took down a helicopter in Emmerdale. (ITV/Shutterstock)

What is it about Emmerdale and plummeting aircraft? Having already fallen victim to a plane falling from the skies (see above), many were dicing with death again on the occasion of Debbie and Pete’s wedding.

As fans will recall, an argument between Robert and his wife Chrissie resulted in a car being set alight, with the flames then causing nearby gas canisters to explode into the air – colliding with a helicopter, which then fell into the village hall! As if that wasn’t enough, the destruction of the helicopter then wrecked a nearby mirror maze, where Val was killed by a large shard of falling glass.

Emmerdale: The Hotten Bypass crash (2016)

Village residents take their life in their hands heading outside at the best of times, but it’s become a real risk during the month of October. It’s the time of year that ITV likes it unveil what’s now become known as Super Soap Week – and this multi-car pile-up from 2016 remains the craziest showstopper.

The catalyst for the carnage was poor James Barton, who was pushed from a road bridge by swivel-eyed wife Emma. As the drivers below, tried (and failed) not to hit him, it turned out that many Emmerdale regulars just happened to be on this one stretch of road at the same time (what are the chances?).

Read more: Danny Miller returns to Emmerdale for 50th anniversary

The resulting smash-ups were worthy of a 9.00pm drama, with Aaron and Robert’s vehicle careering into a lake, while Paddy and Rhona flipped their Vauxhall multiple times. But, in the end, James proved to be the wreckage’s sole casualty.

Emmerdale: The deadly survival challenge (2021)

FROM ITV

STRICT EMBARGO - No Use Before 2031hrs Thursday 21st October 2021

Emmerdale 

Andrea Tate [ANNA NIGHTINGALE]

Picture desk contact - David.crook@itv.com

This photograph is (C) ITV Plc and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on  www.itv.com/presscentre/itvpictures/terms
Andrea Tate (Anna Nightingale) became a victim of Meena on Emmerdale in 2021. (ITV)

It was meant to be a day of fun: a survival challenge on the water in the company of friends. But this outdoors event came at the peak of murderous Meena Jutla’s reign of terror, so a life was inevitably lost.

During a week of high-profile episodes, we witnessed a vertiginous rope bridge collapse and Meena attempting to drown a suspicious Victoria. But it was Andrea Tate who sealed her own fate after witnessing Meena trying to do away with Vic.

Her grisly end came in a maize maze, torched by Meena, who then abandoned her to die.

Emmerdale's hour-long 50th anniversary episode will air on Sunday, 16 October from 7pm on ITV and ITV Hub.

Watch: King Charles pays tribute to Emmerdale