Mount Slesse, BC Plane Crashes Into Mountains, Dec 1956
62 ABOARD TCA PLANE MISSING IN MOUNTAINS
VANISHES IN B.C. STORM.
PILOT TURNED BACK AFTER MOTOR FAILED.
Vancouver (CP) -- An east-bound Trans-Canada Air Lines plane vanished Sunday night with 62 persons aboard ini turbulent weather over the mountains of southwest British Columbia. No trace of the plane has yet been found, and the search is being hampered by rough flying conditions.
It was last reported near Hope, 100 miles east of Vancouver, at 7:09 p.m. PST.
"There's more to this than meets the eye," Sqdn. Ldr. G. L. SHEAHAN, RCAF searchmaster, said today in briefing the 97 airmen taking part in the search.
"We feel the aircraft is likely down in an area southeast of Hope," he said.
Two RCAF Cansos taking part in the search returned to the Sea Island base here two hours after the 7:30 a.m. PST takeoff due to turbulent weather.
"The extreme turbulence over the mountains is buffeting even the biggest planes," said RCAF Sqdn. Ldr. SHEAHAN. "But we'll stick with it as long as possible."
Nothing was heard from the plane after 7:09 p.m. when the pilot turned around to come back to Vancouver. He said a motor had failed.
"He could have lost his radio control, he could have blown up," said Sqdn. Ldr. SHEAHAN.
"You'll be looking for wreckage and the signs of an explosion and in that case you'll probably see bits and pieces of a tail assembly."
"You'll be looking for signs of life, of course. White this is purely conjecture, that is all we have to go on."
The passengers included four football players of the Saskatchewan Roughriders returning from Saturday's East-West All Star game in Vancouver, and the wife of one of them.
The football players were MEL BECKET and GORDON STURTRIDGE, who played in the game, MARIO DeMARCO and RAY SYRNYK, who were spectators. STURTRIDGE was accompanied by his wife, the former MILDRED ALFORD of Winnipeg.
Also reported to be aboard was CAL JONES, All-Star guard of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, who had played a prominent part in the Shrine game.
If all those aboard the aircraft were killed, it would be the worst aviation disaster in Canadian history.
The North Star was a tourist flight which left here at 6 p.m. PST with 59 passengers and a crew of three. It was flight 810 and was due in Calgary at 9:15 p.m. From there it was scheduled to fly on to Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
Skipper of the missing plane is Captain ALLAN CLARKE, 35, of Montreal. His first officer was JOHN BOON, 26, of North Vancouver and the stewardess was DOROTHY BJORNSSON, 24, of Swan River, Man.
At first light, 18 planes -- the 12 RCAF aircraft and six others -- took off from airfields here and on Vancouver Island to search an 100 square mile area extending from the B.C. coast east to Hope and as far south as 10,000 foot Mount Baker in Washington state.
30-Mile Focal Point.
The search will be concentrated in an area within 30 miles of Hope.
Three paratroopers were standing by at Vancouver prepared to board an aircraft and jump when the wreckage is sighted.
Also standing by at Vancouver were an air force medical team of two doctors and two nurses. A land search team was being formed at Vancouver to go to any area to which evidence points as the place where the airliner came down.
Sqdn. Ldr. SHEAHAN said two radar stations obtained fixes on an aircraft at 7:10 p.m., a minute after Capt. ALLAN CLARKE, 35, of Montreal radioed that he had passed Hope and was turning back to Vancouver. His No. 2 motor -- the inner one on the port side had stopped. The plane's altitude was 10,000 feet.
The searchmaster believes the pilots's report was incorrect. The radar fixes showed the plane could be up to 30 miles from Hope.
A. RANKIN, superintendent of flight operations for TCA here, said: "The plane carried no flares or emergency radio -- only extra blankets."
Weather conditions were expected to be "fairly good" this morning.
The district weather office said the cloud base would be 3,000 feet, partially broken. However, overcast conditions were likely to prevail by midday and by evening the weather will be "generally unstable."
The weather in the Hope district at the time the airliner disappeared was extremely bad. Reports from that community of 1,200 Sunday night said that the wind was blowing in gusts up to 50 miles an hour and the sky was overcast.
The area where the plane is believed down is mountainous and rugged, pocked with lakes, carved by canyons and gorges. Hope itself is at the western end of the Fraser Canyon.
A report that a bright light seen for a few minutes atop a 4,000 foot mountain in the Okanagan valley at 11 p.m. PST Sunday might be the lost plane was considered "highly improbable" by the searchmaster.
Peachland, where the light was seen, is about 100 miles east of the search area.
A radar station that plotted the lost plane reported it just east of Hope at 7:09 p.m. The station is at Birch Bay, Wash., close to the Canadian boundary.
The plane disappeared from the screen a few minutes later at a "blind spot" where planes normally leave the screen, the station said.
An RCMP officer at Hope said he heard a big plane pass over the district between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Other people there also heard it, said the officer.
"It sounded all right," he added. "No reports of a crash were received here."
At the time, icing conditions prevailed from 4,500 feet upward.
Crews of planes that took part in the early hunt Sunday night said winds in the area reached 90 miles an hour. More moderate weather prevailed later, with temperatures in the high 40s. The forecast for today was 50 above zero in the Hope area.
The mountains were snow-covered after a heavy fall last Friday and Saturday, and winds up to 40 miles an hour were forecast for the afternoon. Icing conditions might be experienced late in the day.
"This is going to be tough searching weather," the searchmaster told his crews. "Try the peaks first and get down within 100 to 200 feet of the ground you are searching."
"But for God's sake be careful."
PAUL BRINDAMOUR, official at the Hope airport said: "My wife heard the plane when it was out here, but we weren't in radio contact with it."
"Weather conditions were pretty bad about 7:30. The wind was up to gale force and very gusty."
"We didn't see it -- we just heard the engines."
RCMP at Hope said they had no definite information about any crash. An officer said a numbre of people had reported hearing planes at various times.
An aviation expert said there is only one airport between Vancouver and Hope large enough to handle North Stars -- at Abbotsford between Chilliwack and here.
As far as could be determined, the North Star did not make contact with Abbotsford airport.
Thre is an airfield at Chilliwack but it is small.
Three senior TCA officials -- HERB SEAGREIM, vice president of operations; L. ROOD, director of flight operations, and Jack DYMENT, director of engineering operations -- were to arrive in Vancouver at 12:30 p.m. today from Montreal.
Continued, Official Passenger List on Page 2