Pinetree Line note - I first heard of this accident when I was typing the official USAF Narrative Reports for Saskatoon Mountain Air Station – period 1 Oct 58 to 31 Dec 58. I was hoping to obtain some additional detail – and I ultimately proceeded to our local library to check the available microfilm. I was NOT successful. A pure case of luck brought Pat Chenier to the web site. I "begged a little"; and she took on the request with gusto. Pat ended up spending a number of hours searching back issues of the Grand Prairie Herald Tribune which are stored on microfiche and located at the Grande Prairie Public Library. She was successful – and a transcript of the article which was printed in the local paper is provided below. My thanks go to Pat – as she continues her crusade to provide additional material pertaining to the Radar Station which was located on Saskatoon Mountain.
On October 17, 1958 a Beaver Aircraft belonging to the USAF took off from Grande Prairie, Alberta enroute to Edmonton, for a routine maintenance inspection. On board were Captain William Varns, Captain Walter Brown, Lieutenant Lawrence Anderson and Sergeant Jackie Herth from the 919th Squadron, Saskatoon Mountain Air Squadron, Beaverlodge, Alberta, Canada.
Two hunters were reported missing in the area of Nose Mountain, south of Grande Prairie, and the flight was side-tracked to search for them. The hunters were spotted and the crew radioed that they were going down closer to enable them to drop a note to the hunters. That was the last word from them. A civilian plane with a USAF Sergeant aboard was dispatched from the Grande Prairie airport to search for the missing aircraft. They located it but had no radio so had to return to Grande Prairie to report. Meanwhile an RCAF Search and Rescue plane from Namao was dispatched. When they located the crash, they radioed in the location and continued to circle until a RCAF helicopter from Dawson Creek, BC reached the site. The helicopter picked up the injured airmen and radioed back that "One of the chaps didn't make it." The injured were air-lifted to Grande Prairie and transported by ambulance to the hospital in Beaverlodge.
The hunters stayed at the crash site overnight and were air-lifted out early Saturday when the helicopter returned to fetch the body of Captain William Varns. The two hunters were praised for their help in assisting the injured airmen.
The following message was entered in the Pinetree Line Guest Book on Friday, 23 March 2001, at 19:49Allison (Missy) Varns from Calgary, Alberta wrote:
The following message was entered in the Pinetree Line Guest Book on Friday, 6 April 2001, at 18:47Kelly Varns from Calgary, Alberta wrote:
Our special thanks go to Joseph Blum who served as the OIC of the recovery team in 1958 - and has made these photos available to the Pinetree Line web site. The photos can truly be considered as one of a kind, and it is questionable whether there are any other photos of the L-20A crash in existence.
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Updated: June 18, 2001