Sandspit, BC Airlift Plane Crashes, Jan 1952



Vancouver -- A Korean airlift plane with 43 persons aboard crashed into the sea early today off the Queen Charlotte Islands while trying to make an emergency landing in a snowstorm.
Hours later, only seven survivors had been rescued.
A department of transport official at the scene said it was doubtful whether any more survivors would be found.
The Northwest Airlines DC-4, en route from Tokyo to McChord Field, Wash., carried 40 military passengers and a crew of three.

Plunges Into Sea.
The four-engined aircraft splashed into the sea at 1:38 A.M. P.S.T. while trying for a landing at Sandspit. The plane hit three-quarters of a mile offshore. Screams for help were heard at 3:34 a.m. and small boats sped to the rescue.
They found the seven survivors clinging to the broken wreckage of the plane.
DR. G. E. SINGER of Queen Charlotte City, 11 miles from Sandspit, was the first medical man to reach the survivors. He was accompanied by two nurses.
DR. SINGER said the seven suffered shock and exposure but are in fairly good condition. All suffered minor abrasions and bruises.

Plane Visible.
The transport department official said from Sandspit:
"The plane is in about 15 feet of water and the tail and wing are visible. The fuselage looks like it's in one piece."
The tug Labouchere and two fish-boats patrolled the area, looking for survivors who might have drifted from the wreck in lifejackets.
The wreckage was first spotted by another plane. It flashed the location to Sandspit, which relayed it to boats in the area.
The U.S. air force said the plane drifted north after the crash, making it impossible for survivors to reach shore unaided.
The R.C.A.F. here said the plane apparently undershot the airfield while trying to make an emergency landing with one engine feathered.

Off For Scene.
An R.C.A.F. plane with a medical officer aboard took off two hours before daylight from Vancouver. It carried a droppable lifeboat and heavy blankets and rations.
Scene of the crash is off Moresby Island, most southerly of the Queen Charlotte group, about 486 miles northwest of Vancouver.
The U.S. coast guard at Seattle said the plane floated for a while but later sank, leaving only one wing and tail section in sight.
All telephone communications with Sandspit were knocked out by a storm two weeks ago and still have not been restored.
A coast guard plane was also en route to the scene from Annette Island in southern Alaska.
An R.C.A.F. spokesman explained that with one engine cut, the plane probably would not have enough power to make another try for the field and that when the crew saw that they would fall short there was no alternative but to belly-land the aircraft in the water.
"You just get one chance," he said. "If you don't make it on the first try, you don't get another chance to go around again and make another stab at it."
Northwest Airlines said all personnel aboard the four-engined DC-4 were outfitted with "Mae Wests" -- lifejackets -- and that the plane also carried two 20-man life rafts and one 10-man raft.
The coast guard said it was advised all seven survivors were rescued by one man in a rowboat. It said the oarsman reported seeing no other survivors but was going back for another look.
Sandspit, as its name implies, sits on a finger of land jutting into Hecate Strait, which lies between the Queen Charlottes and the British Columbia mainland.
It is maintained by the federal department of transport and is used as a regular airfield by civilian airlines operating to and from the Charlottes and northern B.C.
The R.C.A.F. uses it only as an emergency field and recently used it as a refueling point in the search for the lost American freighter Pennsylvania.
A seattle report said that the plane was carrying 40 American soldiers home from the Far East. There were three in the crew.
The coast guard in Seattle said the plane floated for a time but that it later sank, leaving only one wing and the tail section in sight.
The plane, owned by Trans-World Airlines, had been leased to the military air transport service. Northwest furnishes crews for the airlift planes.
The crew members were identified as:
JOHN, PFAFFINGER, 39, Kent, Wash., pilot.
KENNETH KUHN, 36, Seattle, co-pilot.
JANE CHEADLE, Seattle, stewardess.

The Lethbridge Herald Alberta 1952-01-19


Hey cousin

Linda, .....If you ever come back to this page, you'll see I happened on to this page and left you a message. .....Love You, John T. Pfaffinger

My Uncle was the pilot

In 1952 when this happened, I was not born. It was six years later that I was born to Otto and Vivian Pfaffinger. I was named in memory to my Uncle. I live and farm in S. Minnesota....John T. Pfaffinger.

Plaque placed at Sandspit airport about 1952 crash

I had a cousin (Sgt. Macron Lucas Sanders, Jr.) on that flight. I would like to have a picture of the plaque if possible. Thanks.

Berry Spradley
Spring, Texas

Sandspit, BC Airlift Plane Crashes, Jan 1952

Tech Sgt. Macron Lucas Sanders, Jr.,my cousin, was one of the casualties aboard this plane. He was flying home to Rosenberg, Texas to be at the bed side of his mother who was ill. The Red Cross had made three previous attempts to get him home. He was buried at Rosenberg Cemetery, Rosenberg, Fort Bend County, Texas - Find A Grave Memorial# 46175087

The Rockdale Reporter and Messenger (Rockdale, Tex.), Vol. 80, No. 1, Ed. 1 Thursday, January 24, 1952

Among Victims
Of Plane Crash

Macron L. Sanders, Jr., 23, formerly of Rockdale, has been listed by the Red Cross as among the 33 persons dead or missing in the crash of the United States Air Lift plane off the coast of British Columbia last Saturday, according to word received by his parents Tuesday.
Young Sanders is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Macron Lucas Sanders, Sr., of Rosenberg, and is survived by his parents, eight brothers and sisters and one step brother. The Sanders moved from Rockdale in the late 1930s.
Sanders was on his way home from Korea to be at the bed side of his mother who is ill. It was the third attempt of the Red Cross to have him sent home.
At the time the parents were notified the body had not been recoveed. Dud Sanders, uncle, is among the survivors living in Rockdale.

Sandspit crash

My great uncle was in this crash and I am trying to find out any information about him that I can. If anyone can help that would be very appriciated.

Sandspit crash plaque

Hi, Colin - My uncle, Kenneth Kuhn, was the co-pilot on this flight. He was also my godfather but did not attend my baptism because he was on this flight. My family was not aware of his death until after the baptismal service - a strange sort of irony. I would appreciate a photo of the plaque at the Sandspit airport as I am doing some research on the crash for my family. Thank you, Jackie Kuhn Feeser

jJan 19, 1952 Plane Crash

My uncle died in that plane crash as well. He was returning home because of his 2 1/2 yr old son's serious medical condition. A second son was born shortly after he left for Japan, and he never had an opportunity to see that son. Loren Dale Elness was my uncle and he was 27 years old at the time of his death.

Loren's older son survived and lived to be 59 , but is now deceased. His younger brother is still alive. My Grandmother and my mother, Loren's sister, were never able to discuss Loren's death with me, so I am researching all I can find.

My sincere condolences to you and your family.

Charlene Osier

Sandspit plane crash jan 19th 1952

I would like you to send me a picture of the plaque at Sandspit.
My Father Sgt. Russell A. Raymond was one of the people that died in that crash .He was headed home to attend his mothers funeral.I was only 2 months old he was stationed in Japan .He had never seen me and I never seen him.As a result of that crash my older brother and I ended up in foster homes because our mother never recovered from my fathers death that day.


There is a plaque place at Sandspit airport recognizing the tragedy of that night. If one is interested is a picture of it, email me and on my next flight to Sandspit will take a picture of it and forward it on.

Additional comment on 1952 crash at Sandspit. B.C.

These soldiers were assigned to the POD at Mc Chord AFB where they would have come under my command as OIC of the Port’s casual squadron. One of the soldiers had been visiting with the NCOIC while he waited for me to sign his leave papers. After the soldier had left on leave the Sgt related this story to me about the crash. “Someone panicked and inflated the two 20 man rafts inside the plane. As a result they couldn’t be taken out the door. All the people escaped onto the wing, but gradually one by one they passed out from exposure and slipped into the water”. The soldier reported he spent the entire night diving into the water rescuing people who were sliding off the wing and that he had rescued the stewardess three times. When I signed his leave papers he seemed totally unaffected in a physical manner and was eagerly looking forward to getting home. The other six where in the hospital. I've often wondered if the difference between survival and death was panic, because without the Sgt's story I would never have realized this man had been on this plane; however, all I remember 58 years later was that he had a Greek name and a cheerful attitude. Former 1st Lt. R.B. Nelson USAF