Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part story about a local airplane crash in 1967. Part one introduces the key individuals involved and describes the crash scene. Next week, part two will describe the crash itself, the rescue attempt and the aftermath of the event.
By Clark Fair
Photos courtesy of Lee Bowman. A few days after surviving an Aug. 2, 1967, crash in this single-engine Maule Rocket, Dane Parks poses near the front end of the wreckage.
Even though it was just Aug. 2, 1967, 16-year-old Jack Foster was already contemplating winter when a sound from above diverted his focus. What he saw next jolted him out of his snowy reverie.
Out in the yard at his parents’ home, as he worked on his snowmachine — a heavy, single-ski, double-track Ski-Doo Alpine — the sound of a single-engine airplane caused him to look up and investigate. Flying slowly only a few hundred feet over the exposed flats behind the Foster house, a blue-and-white aircraft was just crossing over the small airstrip owned by neighbors Dan France and Dave Thomas.
As it is today, the sight then of a small plane overhead was common, and this plane would have garnered little further attention from Foster if — quite suddenly — the plane’s engine had not died.
“I heard it sputtering, and then the engine quit,” Foster said.
The plane banked once and began nosing sharply toward the ground, and then it disappeared behind a line of trees. From hundreds of yards away, Foster heard it strike the ground with great force.
Although he feared the worst, he shifted into action. After grabbing a fire extinguisher from the garage, he raced for the driveway where he’d parked his panel van that he had painted a metallic blue to cover its original Army green. In his haste, he turned the key too far — from the first OFF position, past ON, and into the second OFF position. When he pressed the floorboard starter with his foot, nothing happened.
Once he realized the error, he adjusted the key, cranked up the engine and headed down the road toward the crash site. In less than two minutes he was clambering over the berm left from an old homestead clearing as he lugged the extinguisher and shuffled through some low brush and scattered, snaggly trees. He approached the crumpled aircraft quickly, the nose of which was angled into the soil.
The tail was bent to the left, and the left wing had suffered a deep gash about two-thirds of the way out from the fuselage. From the broken foliage, it appeared that the left wing had struck a tree and spun the aircraft back in the direction from which it had come. Foster noted the plane’s registration number, N4605T, but did not recognize it.
“I hollered in there, ‘Are you guys OK?’ And nobody answered me. That’s when I left the fire extinguisher there and I took off and went and got Dave, ’cause I knew that Dave had been in CAP (Civil Air Patrol) and probably knew a lot of first aid.” Continue reading