Mt Bolduc Plane Crash

Mt Bolduc Plane Crash

(The following story is taken from the Cowichan Leader, dated May 1, 1944)

Bomber Plane Crash Kills Six Airmen on Lake Cowichan Peak

Six R.C.A.F. flyers were given a last resting place at the top of rugged peaks in mountains near Cowichan Lake where their plane crashed killing them all last Wednesday. They were on a navigational flight from a Vancouver Island Base.

On Tuesday, while two R.C.A.F. Padres read the burial service, comrades of the dead men reverently erected a cairn of stones over the bodies and left them to their last sleep.

The dead airmen are: FO Ambrose Moynagh, Souris, P.E.I; PO John E. Moyer, St. Catherines, Ont.; Sgt. Harry Maki, Sudbury,Ont.; WO1 Brinsley Palmer, Saskatoon, Sask., WO2 Lawrence Kerr, Millet, Alta.; LAC Murray Robertson, Patricia Bay, B.C.

Search for the missing plane and its crew was one of the most intensive carried out in this district. It was marked by the daring of those who searched from the air and by the hardihood of loggers from Lake Logging Company at Rounds, who risked death or serious injury in scaling the rugged mountain wall on Saturday and Sunday to reach the 3,500 foot peak where the aircraft crahed. An unusual feature of the search was the part played in it by a United States Navy dirigible ballon from an Oregon coast station.

Wide Search
Airplane search over a wide area began last Wednesday night when the plane failed to return to its base. Planes from Vancouver Island and northern Washington stations flew over many districts.

On the following day Mr. David Beech, skidder engineer, and Mr. J.G. Pappenberger, head loader, working on Lake Logging Co. operations, saw smoke arising from a mountain top approximately five miles southeast of Rounds. They notified the B.C. Police, who in turn notified the Aircraft Detection Corps. Immediately FO Godwin, R.C.A.F., flew in by sea-plane with a party of Air Force men.

The next morning, Friday, the flyers left their base at Honeymoon Bay and, accompanied by two guides furnished by the Lake Logging Co., climbed the mountain where it was believed the smoke had been seen. They found nothing so returned to their base.

That night FO Heaslip landed a sea-plane on Cowichan Lake and after receiving directions as to location of the smoke made a short search. He thought he had located a burned area on a mountain top but had to give up his search owing to darkness.

On Saturday, with Const. Andrew Grant, B.C. Police, and a wireless operator, he set out again in spite of extremely bad flying conditions, which were so bad that the wireless man became airsick.

Eventually the searchers spotted a swath cut through the timber at the top of a peak. It was about 200 feet in length. Risking disaster by striking tree tops the pilot followed this swath and on the top of another peak, one quarter of a mile away, he and his companions could make out the wreckage of a plane.

The party returned to Honeymoon Bay and made a report. FO Heaslip went on to Vancouver and came back the following morning. On Saturday night another plane, with a number of R.C.A.F. personnel, with equipment arrived at Honeymoon Bay.

On Sunday morning the airmen and 20 loggers set out for the mountain top where the wreckage was seen. Shortly afterwards a United States Navy “blimp” appeared over Lake Cowichan. FO Heaslip met it in the air and talked by radio with its pilot. He then led the balloon to the scene of the wreck, where the balloon hovered and dropped marker balloons.

The ground searchers arrived at a steep and almost perpendicular face below the mountain top. A party led by Mr. William Crapo and composed of Messrs William Green, Arthur Wayment, Peter Kachnia and Raymond LeFleur, all Lake Logging Co. employees, set out to scale this face, often clinging like flies to the steep cliff. At 12:15 noon they reached the summit to be met by a ghastly sight.

The wreckage of the big plane was still hot and smouldering. Bodies of two of the crew were found 30 feet in front of the demolished fuselage. Another body was found at one side and two more were discovered in the wreckage.; Later a sixth body was found to one side and 50 ft. distant. All must have died instantly.

After making a full investigation, Mr. Crapo and his men made the difficult descent to where the rest of the party awaited them and reported in detail. The party then returned to their separate bases at Rounds and Honeymoon Bay.

On Monday R.C.A.F. personnel, travelling by an easier but much longer route, went to the scene of the crash for further investigation which resulted in the decision that it would be practically impossible to remove the bodies for burial. It was then decided to inter them beneath a cairn at the mountain top.

Dr. Joseph Tassin, acting as coronerís physician for Col. J.H. Boyd, coroner, Lake Cowichan, examined the bodies. Following the burial service on Tuesday, the coroner held an inquiry at Rounds and declared that death of the flyers was accidental.

Operations of the R.C.A.F. at the scene of the crash after discovery of the wreckage on Saturday were directed by Wing-Cmdr. McNee. R.C.A.F.

Few Cowichan residents noted the arrival of the U.S. Navy dirigible in the district but on its return journey, about 1 p.m. Sunday, it attracted great interest and aroused much conjecture as to the reason for its appearance over Canadian territory. Few connected it with the search for the missing plane.

Webmaster Notes:
Not mentioned in the article was the name of the mountain. It is known as Mt. Bolduc.

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