1946-58

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DC3 Crash with CBC News Team Onboard

by Jack Pinsent

 

Crashed DC3

When it became known that a Sabena DC4 had crashed while on approach to Gander airport, it became such a world wide newsworthy event, attracting interest from all the major news media. The year was 1946, Newfoundland, not yet a part of Canada, was without any CBC news casting media or broadcasting stations available.

The CBC made a request with the RCAF asking to provide transportation to Gander in order to report on the rescue mission. A CBC news team, out of Halifax, arrived in Gander on an RCAF DC3 to make the first ever news report from Newfoundland. After the surviving passengers were now safe in the airport town, the CBC news team were scheduled to fly back to Halifax. The DC3, with the CBC team on board, crashed departing Runway 27 in a location very near where the NORAD radar site is located today. There were no injuries to passengers and crew, but the aircraft was a write off.

The crash as witnessed by one of the DC3 passengers, the news editor, a Mr. G F Brickenden who was onboard, as reported on CBC radio.....

" Back in Halifax, still in one piece, is the CBC’s remote unit from Gander, Newfoundland.

The story we went to Gander is over, the crash of that Belgian Airliner, was over last Sunday when all the survivors had been evacuated.

Well, it’s one thing to reportage news, it’s quite another to BE the news. But that’s the way it turned out. Here’s how it happened.

It was a bright Sunday afternoon when we lined up on Gander’s huge, east-west runway ready for the takeoff. Our big, airforce Dakota got its okay from the tower and swung into the wind. We gathered speed, quickly. Then halfway down the runway, when we’d almost reached takeoff speed, there was a loud POP. The POP from the starboard engine and was followed by a swoosh of smoke.

Up about 100 feet I could feel the aircraft swerve suddenly and dip just as suddenly, toward the tarmac not very far below us. I could hear the port engine screaming as our pilot fought to keep us up on it alone, for the starboard engine was useless.

I got a grip on my safety belt and held my breath. Airport buildings flashed by our windows. The trees, of all things, swam by in a green blur. I hardly had a chance to gather my thoughts when there was a great crashing of the plane through bushes and over rough ground, with a whole bunch of rapid, vicious jolts.

Everything then seemed to stop and start. Our forward motion was mysteriously gone. But smoke began to fill the cabin. Orange flames gushed out of the motor. A member of the crew shouted, “get out of your belts”. And we did, pronto.

The next few seconds were a helter-skelter rush to get as far away from the burning aircraft as possible. When we had done that, we counted noses. Everyone was safe. Well, the next thing I heard was the whine of fire engines racing towards us, and the situation was then out of our hands entirely.

I don’t know how many people have asked “what do you think about where you’re cracking up in an aircraft?”. The only answer is, you don’t think of anything. At least I didn’t. And I didn’t have any feelings that I remember on the way down. Like the rest of them, I waited for it."

Information was taken from the papers of G.F. Brickenden with permission of his daughter Jennyfer Brickenden.

To listen to a the first CBC news report from Newfounfland

For more information on the Sabena Crash

 

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