Thursday, November 27, 2014

1978 plane crash

          On Tuesday the 15th of August 1978, in the area of Amai Inlet   A light plane carrying four passengers crashed after reportedly losing a wing, around the 3000 metre elevation of one of the nearby mountains. A fire was spotted locally so the residents knew where to find the crash site.  The bodies were badly burnt, practically unrecognizable,  and probably died almost instantly according to the coroners report.

 Mention in the Prince George Citizen of the 17th of August 1978

 Dead are:

Clifford Peel   born on the 7th of November 1948 at Vancouver, B.C.
       Death certificate
Home was Surrey, B.C.   Clifford was single. Driller and blaster, Campbell River Construction.    His parents were Hans “Clifford” Friberg Peel ( 1922 – 1949 ), and Jean Marie Janes.   NOTE: I only became interested in this story because his father worked at Essondale hospital, as a Occupational therapist, and I noted that he died when his son was only one year old, also left behind another child to mourn him, and his wife.

William Robert Peter, was born on the 26th of September 1925 at Vancouver, B.C.
Death Certificate 
Home was in Vancouver, B.C. he was single, and worked as a chef.
  His parents were Robert Johnstone Peter and Marcia Jean Reid. [ Parents Marriage certificate ]

Albert Gurschler, was born on the 27th of July 1931 in Germany.
Death Certificate
Home was in Vancouver, he was single, and was working as a shovel operator, for the Campbell River Construction Company.    
His parents were: Edward  Gurschler and Philomena Kuen.  Albert had at least two brothers: Engelbert Gurschler and Joseph Wilhelm Gurschler ( 1932 - 1981)   who both appeared to have lived together  at 1454 Denise Place, Port Coquitlam.
NOTE: common to find Gurschler miss-spelled as Gerschler, Girschler..

The pilot was William"Bill" Curtis Merrill, born on the 25th of September 1951 at Tahsis, B.C.   
Death Certificate
Home was in North Vancouver, he was single, and worked for Tradewinds Aviation, Vancouver, B.C.  His parents were:  Curtis Leroy Merrill  and  Mary Louise Walcott.  

I have not seen many of the papers of the date to see if there is any detailed information about the crash, with the exact location, photographs,etc.  I would guess that they are very sparse, this was and still is a fairly remote location.

Amai Inlet is shown on the Kyuquot 92L/3  1 : 50 000 map sheet 
Adjoining map sheets to the south and east, below
Woss Lake  92L/2
Port Eliza 92E/14
Zeballos 92E/15 
92L/3       92L/2
92E/14     92E/15
also the Provincial government map  092L005  1:20,000  ( PDF download starts immediately )  covers the area well.

Hopefully one day someone will read this and tell us some more about this tragic accident. Did the wing fall off? or did he clip the trees first ?
I will update this page as the events unfold.

UPDATE:   In the comments is the answer from Trevor Merrill :  My uncle William Merrill is one of these persons. I remember hearing some stories about the cause as a child from his father.
The wing did indeed fall off. The plane was purchased from the U.S. as a rebuild and although it passed safety inspections, it was not safe.
   All paper work conserning the plane and all its records quickly disappeared.
The pilot mentioned to his family weeks before that the plane had an odd vibration.

Editor:  What a nightmare, not even a chance once the wing fell off. RIP