Port Hardy, BC Airliner Crashes, June 1957


Ottawa (Special) -- A report that Sunday's crash of a Pacific Western Airlines DC-3 -- in which 14 people died -- was due to tail blocks being inadvertently left in place is being checked by the department of transport air division.
The airline has issued a statement implying that negligence may have been the cause of the crash at Port Hardy, B.C.
Pacific Western is the third largest air service in Canada, ranking after Trans-Canada Air Lines and Canadian Pacific Airlines. Pacific Western operates from the United States border to the Arctic Circle.
In September, 1946 at Estevan, a Royal Canadian Air Force transport crashed, killing 21. At that time, investigations showed the crash was due to the tail blocks being left in place, preventing the aircraft from gaining altitude.
Following that Estevan air force crash -- which was investigated by the RCAF -- the transport department issued regulations which required that the tail blocks had to have streamers and huge weights on them so that ground personnel could never overlook them before an aircraft took off. Since that time improvements in the tail block system are supposed to have been made, designed as guards against an aircraft being able to take off with the blocks in place.
Air division experts were seeking Monday to get a full report on the crash. Particularly they want checked the angle of the tail blocks as the department has issued regulations on that point, one spokesman said.
Pacific Western said Sunday that early reports indicated the "cause of the accident was the failure of some personnel to remove one of the ground control blocks which are always placed on the tail assembly of the aircraft."
The wooden blocks hold the tail elevators in position and would stop the elevators in position and would stop the elevators from working properly if left in position after the plane took off.
The plane, returning to land shortly after taking off Sunday from the busy -- but remote -- airport here, bounced heavily and then plunged nose first into the ground near the runway.
The pilot, co-pilot and 12 passengers died as the twin-engined DC-3 burned fiercely. The youthful stewardess and three others all from the rear of the plane, made their way almost unhurt through a rear door as flames and burning gasoline sprayed the field and consumed all of the aircraft but its tail.
"It came straight down," said Bill Krause, an airport worker who saw the crash. "The controls must have frozen."
"Immediately following takeoff, Capt. ALLEN (pilot
GERALD W. ALLEN), reported by radio he was not satisfied with the feel of the aircraft and was returning to base for a checkup. When he came back to land the accident occurred."
"The company will await an official investigation and finding by the department of transport officials who now are on the scene."
The department of transport had inspectors on the scene within a short time of the crash. An inquest was scheduled for today, with the witnesses to include the four survivors.
At the plane's controls when it took off about 3:15 p.m. PDT was Capt. GERALD W. ALLEN, 37, of Richmond, B.C., his co-pilot was LAURIE ROLAND, 23, of Vancouver, a three time winner of the British Columbia junior open golf championship and Canadian titlist in 1951.
The third crew member was PATRICIA WILSON, 23, of Vancouver, a native of Regina who joined PWA 15 months ago.
The passenger list included two RCAF technicians
one woman and a group of loggers and forest workers.
The plane was bound for Vancouver, 190 miles southeast of this northern Vancouver Island community.
"It appeared to be a normal take-off," said airport worker Krause, who watched it from outside his nearby home. "He got into the air and then he radioed for permission to land again ... "
"He said he was having trouble with his elevators. He came down, bounced off the runway and veered into the air again to between 300 or 400 feet."
"The plane suddenly banked to the left and then nosed over. It came straight down."
Another airport worker, Bill Porter, said Capt. ALLEN was asked by the control tower whether he wanted the crash wagon to stand by.
"He said no, that he was in control," said Porter.
"He was, too, at that time."
PETER ONUSHKO, 27-year-old Edmonton electrician and one of the four survivors, said the screams of one of the passengers could be heard after he and the others got out.
"I went back as far as I could," ONUSHKO said.
"The flames were coming fast then. It was pretty hot."
"I could see someone trying to get down to the door and I tried to get to him. It was no use."
Others who escaped were JOHN KIMDRAT of Moose Jaw, Sask., and SALVATORE DARDENO,
28, of Vancouver.
Besides their position at the rear of the plane, Dr. Wilson said, a contributing factor in their survival was that the rear door was sprung open by the crash impact.

Following is a list of victims in the crash:
Capt. GERALD W. ALLEN, 37, pilot, Richmond, B.C.
LAWRENCE D. ROLAND, 24, co-pilot, Vancouver.
LAC R. J. WAITE, 29, RCAF station Holberg, B.C.
LAC J. A. O. GIBSON, 39, RCAF station Sea Island, Vancouver.
J. LEYBOURN, Mahatta River, B.C.
M. RUTKOWSKI, Mahatta River, B.C.
A. BOYKO, Mahatta River, B.C.
J. BOWLER, Mahatta River, B.C.
A. PLUMMER, Coal Harbor, B.C.
MRS. J. CAVERS, Port Alice, B.C.
L. TURCOTTE, Port McNeil, B.C.
DAVID VARNEY, Vancouver.
LEE CONNIE, Port Alice, B.C.
W. SHIELDS, Sointula, B.C.
The co-pilot, MR. ROLAND, was former Canadian junior open golf champion and three-time British Columbia junior title-holder.
ROLAND won the B.C. championship for the first time in 1949 when he was 16 years old. He defended it successfully in 1950 and 1951.
He was married but had no children.
Following is a list of survivors:
Stewardess PATRICIA WILSON, 23, Vancouver.
PETER ONUSHKO, 27, Edmonton.
JOHN KIMDRAT, Moose Jaw, Sask.
S. DARDENO, Vancouver.

Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba 1957-06-24


crach in Port Hardy 1957

Mike, my dad went on the plane and survived. I was born 7 years later, through the grace of God....


a lucky passenger

My father in 1957 would have been working on the SS Camosun. He mentioned to me that he was to take a flight which I believe was this ill fated one. Apparently he was asked to give up his seat which he did and as a result was able to survive. It is a very long story, but this would be just another instance of his close calls. The tragedy is important for me because it helps me in away to fill in some of the blanks from a father I hardly knew. Perhaps someday I will be able to come out to BC and take a trip on the ferries.
Mike Close