14 May 1957F/O Raymond W Komar in CF-100 - serial # 18337
Comments by Chuck Myles:
Ray Komar and Larry Sharratt were to do put on an aerial display for an American General who was to arrive that day via aircraft. LAC Guy Lariviere and I strapped them in, fired them up and saw them off under the watchful eye of W/C Butch Handley. We had a pick up truck for going from Squadron Operations to the buttons, and we had just backed it up to the Ops. front steps and the three of us were standing there watching the aircraft, which had taken off from our end of the runway.
Everything appeared to be normal, except that instead of climbing out, Ray turned and made what looked like a normal turn and flew back parallel to the runway and made what appeared to be a normal landing turn and approach. However, once into the turn the aircraft began to descend rapidly and power was added. The engines were screaming but it was apparent the aircraft would not have enough altitude to go around. I do not remember seeing the wheels down. Talking to Larry Sharratt at the 50th Anniversary of 423 Squadron, he remembers the events clearly-too much weight and not enough airspeed.
The aircraft impacted the ground (with Ray Komar either ejecting or the seat fired due to impact) and slid on it's belly toward the perimeter fence at our end of the runway. W/C Handley, Guy Lariviere (driving) and I jumped into the pick up and drove like mad to the fence, Guy going through the crash gate on orders from Butch. Ray had been propelled ahead of the aircraft due to the angle of his departure, and unfortunately landed just a bit to the right of centre. The aircraft slid and pieces flew off as it began to break up from the nose back. When we stopped, the aircraft was beginning to burn, and Larry was sitting in his seat.
It was incredible - Larry was the nose of the aircraft, with everything in front of him gone. Radome, bulkhead, nose wheel, windshield, complete pilot cockpit, another bulkhead, his radar set, and the bottom and sides of his navigator's compartment were all gone. His feet were in the seat stirrups, and the floor was gone part way under his seat. How he sat there and had everything tear up and fly around him without serious injury is beyond belief. Larry attempted to get up and walk out, but his O2 hose was still connected and it snagged him, jerking his head back. He just took it in his hands and ripped it apart. (We tried that afterwards, there was no way we could do that!)
Under the starboard wing of the aircraft, I could see the boots of Ray, they were kicking. The three of us, who had been first on scene, the crash truck was still on the way, got Larry out and down on the ground, beating out little patches of fire on his flying suit. Larry said his hands hurt and wanted his gloves off. When I tried to remove his glove I realized it was best not to due to the burns he suffered. With the W/C and Guy seeing to Larry, I went over to where Ray was under the wing, he had stopped kicking, but there was no way I could pull him out.
The crash truck arrived and I pointed to where Ray was and the crash crew fired the foam gun and covered that area of the wreck with foam, then turned it on to the fuselage and engines where the fire was. Despite efforts of many of us to lift the wing to get Ray out, we could not, and it took a crane to come out and put a wire under the wing to lift it before he was extracted, unfortunately he was gone. Larry had been whipped into an ambulance, and while we were still at the crash scene, the air evac aircraft took off to get Larry to a US burn unit. Ironically, the US General arrived in his Dakota and had to fly through the black smoke from the burning CF-l00 at the end of the runway. The crew of Ray Komar and Al Martin were well known, admired, respected and highly thought of by the Squadron members. They were long time members of 423 Squadron from St. Hubert days. Al was on leave, I believe he was in England where he like to go, and Larry had taken his place on this fateful day. Ray is not forgotten.
Comments by Don Norrie:
F/O RW Komars CF-100 stalled on landing, and crashed just inside the perimeter fence. The impact with the ground caused an inadvertent ejection. Sharratt was sitting up against the fence when we arrived in the crash crew vehicle, and Komar was nowhere to be seen. The firefighters, of course, were spraying foamite over the wreckage – which did not burn. Once things settled out, there was a serious search for Komar's body working out from the wreckage. Many of his aircrew buddies from 423 Squadron were now on the scene, some taking pictures, others assisting in the search. There was a lull in activity, and I was just standing there, when an unidentified, shy, French Canadian airman came up to me and said in very broken English; "Are you looking for a body?" "Yes; I replied, we can't find the pilot." Then he proceeded to point out to me the toes of two boots sticking up through the foamite (barely visible) in front of the leading edge of the aircraft port wing. The rest of the body was obviously under the wing. I advised him to tell the officer-in-charge as I felt he should get the credit for having such a sharp eye – but he took off like a bolt of lightening! Why, I don't know. Anyway I passed the word on and the crane truck was brought over and a cable slipped under the wing tip to raise the aircraft so the body could be extricated. S/L (Dr) Chitham was the medic at the site, and he was standing directly in front of the toes as the wing was being lifted. Picture a lot of personnel watching this scene, many close to the Doctor. When the wing was raised about 5 feet, Dr Chitham grabbed Komar's feet and tried to pull him out – but couldn't. He called for help, but no one moved to assist him. I didn't move because there were so many others that were closer. He called again, this time from under the wing, and there was anger in his voice. I was about 10 feet away, so I ran over and under the wing and grabbed one side of the body while Dr Chitham grabbed the other side. Between us we pulled Komar clear just as the cable slipped off the wing (probably due to the slippery consistency of the foamite) and it came crashing to the ground. If this had happened just a few seconds earlier, there would have been two more fatalities.
Extracts from Historical Report:
14 May 1957 - At 1005Z Handcuff 57 (F/O Komar) crashed on final turn in a CF-100 about 200 yards short. F/O Komar was killed, his navigator F/O Sherratt injured, later taken to Lanstuhl. From eyewitness reports, Handcuff 57 was pulling a very tight final turn.
15 May 1957 - Arrangements being made for the funeral of the late F/O Komar.
16 May 1957 - Funeral for the late F/O Ray Komar held this morning in the RC Chapel. Very good turn out. Flying washed out until 1000 hours due to funeral parade.
F/O RW Komar at Cold Lake - 7 March 1955
From the book "Canucks Unlimited" by Bob Baglow
Grave marker photos courtesy of Malcolm Cromarty - February 2001