Douglas Dakota III (DC-3)
On the morning of September 15, the 21 men, including one pilot, one co-pilot, 18 ferry pilots, and one air-frame mechanic, checked out of the Roosevelt Hotel in Minot, North Dakota and headed to the airport. They were readying themselves for a routine 45-minute cross-country transport flight northwest to Estevan, as passengers aboard Dakota 962, getting ready to ferry another set of Cornells back to Minot.
The pilot provided the flight plan after becoming airborne at 0930 hours CST. He reported his ETA at Estevan being 1015 hours CST and did not report any difficulties, making no further contact with ground stations.
At 1020 hrs CST, the dispatching officer of No. 124 (Ferry) Squadron reported that Dakota 962 crashed upon landing at RCAF Station Estevan.
Witnesses on the airbase testified that only two men had signs of life when responders first arrived on scene, but remained unconscious. All men on board Dakota 962 were thrown to the front of the plane, many on fire, after impact. The medical officer identified the individuals by rings, laundry marks and billfolds, among other things including watches, five of which needed to be identified by the families.
The crash and the funeral procession to the railway station in Estevan made local and national news across Canada. The men’s bodies were returned to their homes coast to coast, via train, with the exception of F/O Henry Hugh Cowan, DFC, whose body was flown home to Ottawa, as his mother was on her deathbed.
The Court of Inquiry said it was difficult to determine what had transpired in Dakota 962 between takeoff and the crash, but concluded Dakota 962 crashed on landing at RCAF Station Estevan as a result of loss of control due to an elevator control lock being in the locked position. The pilot was guilty of negligence in the performance of his duties, in that he failed to carry out a proper pre-flight check.
Photo of DC-3 courtesy of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum website.
Information provided courtesy of Anne Gafiuk.
Photos and newspaper articles
If you want to learn more about the accident and the airmen involved, Marie Calder wrote a book on the lives of the Airman that were killed.
You can email your orders to her at: email@example.com and she will get the books off to you. She accepts Interac etransfer to the same email address or she will accept cheques or money orders mailed to her. You can also purchase books as they are available at Henders Drugs and A&A Jewellers in Estevan, SK and Carnduff Agencies in Carnduff, SK. The Saskatoon Aviation Museum in Saskatoon, SK also has copies available.
You can also check out her website at the link below.
Written by Nolan Kowal Saturday, Jul 09 2022, Discover Estevan.
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Some of the commemorative banners that were place up and around the city (Estevan) during the summer (2022) photos by Angela Clements