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   Volume 81 - Issue 35 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
"(The Thunder Challenge) is a chance for kids to see some of the future stars of the WHL, and even the NHL"
- Rory Snider  
   
   

 

Story
Kimberley Massey photo
Constable Jesse Morrison is the newest addition to the Crowsnest Pass RCMP, transferring from Fort Chipewyan, and replacing Constable Lorne Gopp, who has transferred to Pincher Creek.
Looking Back - John KinnearThe Douglas DC-3 aircraft is a remarkable plane that was designed over seventy five years ago and is still in the air flying cargo and people all around the world. It is probably the most important airliner ever designed and its military counterpart, the C-47 (DC-3 Dakota) played a hugely important role in the Second World War.  At one point in time there it is said there was a DC-3 either taking off or landing every eight seconds in the world and over 10,000 of them were built. They were dependable, reliable aircraft designed to be able to fly and land on only one engine if necessary. But occasionally accidents happen and things can go terribly wrong.
On January 19, 1946 a C-47 on its way from Comox, British Columbia to Greenwood, Nova Scotia got into some kind of trouble east of Cranbrook, clipped Mount Ptolemy and plummeted into the valley below. Five days later Crowsnest Pass Forest Rangers led a rescue crew of twelve men to the site and recovered the bodies of the seven men from the Royal Canadian Air Force who were aboard that fateful day.
As so it has remained.  A tragic story and an amazing place to visit high in the meadows below the massive Flathead Range.  Recently the whole picture of what this site is and its significance to us all was transformed by a visit of family members of one of the crew members aboard that C-47 that day.
This August 1st two adult children of William James Sealey, senior officer aboard that historic Dakota, visited the Crowsnest Pass with their family.   Now both in their sixties, son Gary and daughter Karen had planned to hike part way to the remains and then use a BMW 650 for the steepest parts, but found the mud swales left by summer’s snow melt too difficult to ascend.  Stranded in the valley below, they worried that their pilgrimage to the historic site was ruined, until Quad Squad members Ken and Sharon Morton came to their rescue.  The Morton’s kindly offered to ferry them to the site.
For Karen (“Kelly”) Murphy it was a visit with much meaning.  “I was only 9 months old, so I don’t remember my father”, she said.  “The plane is a kind of monument to his life and work and the spirit of dedication he and the other lost young men gave to Canada, through the wartime Air Force”.
Karen’s son Shane, a young commercial jet pilot who is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, offered his opinion on what might have gone wrong that night.  “After reporting safe passage by radio over Cranbrook, they ran into a raging snowstorm in Crowsnest and one of the engines may have iced up. With the plane heavily loaded and full of fuel for its next planned stop in Winnipeg they lost altitude and perhaps drifted a bit south. They were so close to making it over the Flathead range, to safety.”
Son Gary Sealey said: “My father was a teen-ager in Vancouver, in the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  He got good grades, loved sports and won the school prize for Best Boy.
 
He had a technical bent and took the ‘Cooking’ trades course.  In the cities there was hardly any work for youth.  His training led him to his first jobs, in kitchens of big logging crew-camps.  As Canada prepared for war, he volunteered for the RCAF as a cook. He was popular and hard-working.  He helped open many Commonwealth Air Training bases in Canada’s West.  But his love was flying, and he took the courses and won his pilots badge in 1943.”
When Sealey showed up at York Creek he had a small plaque with him that the family had intended to place somewhere at the site. Because of the significance of what they were contemplating they decided to let Quad Squad member Joe Lumley investigate whether the plaque’s placement was okay with government types.  Joe also talked to the family about placing 7 black iron crosses at the crash site to increase awareness of what had happened there in the hopes that future visitors will be respectful of its importance.  Karen likened it to the white crosses on the highway in a way.
The family liked the crosses idea and Joe proceeded to construct them and get the nod from SRD for both efforts. Turns out that MLA Cindy Ady, Minister for Tourism, Parks and Recreation was on holiday in the area and had planned to visit the site with her family. So Friday August 19th everyone wound up at the site where the plaque and the crosses were reverently placed.
The plaque was attached to the new information sign and lists Flight Lieutenant William James Sealey’s life markers until Mt. Ptolemy took him at the age of 26. There can be no doubt to anyone who now visits here that this is an important and historic site that Gary Sealey feels “future generations and tourists and residents could learn from and cherish”. Gary wants to do further research on the rest of the crew who perished with his father and feels it would make a wonderful “school speakers’ resource kit”
It is important to note that CNP Quad- Squadders were instrumental in having the site cleaned up and in bringing the Sealey family to the place where some closure could be achieved. Minister Ady got a good look at some of their trail and bridge work in the York Creek basin and no doubt this ambitious bunch bent the minister’s ear about future funding to carry on this important work.
In spite of what happened to his father it is Gary’s  hope that “all this leads to inspiration and confidence among youth, and encourages them to keep going with their lives and get as far as they can -- and realize that other Canadian youth came before them, tried their best, and did what they could.”
The crash site is a place he feels has a special meaning and that we need to interpret and protect it and make its meaning accessible to others.
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