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Former staff at Manston airport have spoken of their heartbreak for the first time since the process of closing the site began in March.
Workers were given an emotional send off by more than 150 campaigners outside the terminal building as it shut for the final time at 5pm on Thursday.
They gathered round as North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale broke the news that a final offer for the airport had been rejected, less than two hours after it had been made.
There were tears from many workers and their families as the crowd applauded them as they walked out for the last time.
Airport operations officer Glenn Sheppard, of Broadstairs, said: “I can’t speak. I’m totally gutted.
“Everyone here loves working here. It’s a way of life, not just a job. We’re just devastated.
“I don’t know what I’ll do now. Thanet is a blackspot for employment and I’m no spring chicken anymore so it is going to be even worse.
“It’s going to be very difficult to find a job.”
In a direct plea to owner Ann Gloag he said: “Do the decent thing and what you said you would do – sell the airport.”
The airport's closure has cost 144 people their jobs.
A consultation was launched in March, with the airport understood to be losing £10,000 a day.
Stagecoach founder Ann Gloag bought the Thanet site for £1 in November and turned down three offers to buy it from US group RiverOak.
Pilot Nick Emmerson of Herne Bay said: “I’m incredibly upset and heartbroken.
“I’ve lived around the airfield all my life and it gave me my first proper job.
“It’s such a waste. It doesn’t need to happen.
“The last couple of months have been very stressful and emotional. We have all been sticking together but today it feels like we have been ripped apart.
“I’m bitter. It’s a perfectly workable airport with fantastic facilities, the best staff you could possibly want. I’m so angry that we haven’t been given a chance.
“I hope and pray it won’t become a big housing estate because I won’t return to this area if it does. It will be too heartbreaking.”
“I can’t speak. I’m totally gutted" - Glenn Sheppard
The airport’s longest-serving staff member Marta Easton was diagnosed with cancer in December, shortly after owner Ann Gloag bought the site near Ramsgate.
She said: “I thought this woman was going to do big things with this airport but to lose my job as well as going through my treatment made me wonder ‘can anything else go wrong?’
“I never thought it would close. I have been through ups and downs and seen it go into receivership but I didn’t think it would ever completely close down.
Video: Manston Airport closes its doors
She added: “It touched me when I came out and saw everyone. It just shows there are so many people who don’t work here who care for it as well.”
Manston airport dates back to the First World War and was heavily bombed during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War.
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