BUCHANS MINING COMPANY PLANE CRASH

A single engine Beaver aircraft with pilot Lee Frankham and five members of the Buchans Miners hockey team crashed near Hind’s Lake on Sunday, March 22, 1959. The plane was returning from Deer Lake with the players when it developed ice on the wings from freezing rain. Due to the low visibility at the Buchans’ airstrip, the plane was unable to land at Buchans. The pilot radioed the tower at Buchans saying that he would attempt to land on Red Indian Lake, four miles from Buchans. The mining company sent its snowmobiles to that area in case the plane did land on the lake.

The weather conditions were also bad at the lake, so the pilot retraced his route and contacted the radio tower at Buchans that he was going to try a forced landing near Hind’s Lake, 10miles northwest of Buchans. The pilot had no choice but to attempt the forced landing as the plane was icing up fast and the craft was running out of fuel.
During the forced landing, the Beaver cut through the tops of trees that acted as a cushion and helped reduce the plane’s impact with the ground. The Beaver aircraft came to rest on its side, with the wings torn off completely, but with very little cabin damage. It was facing the direction from which it had come. This attested to the pilot’s skill in bringing his plane in for a safe forced landing.

There weren’t any serious injuries to the people on board, except for team manager Gus Soper, who suffered from nervous strain. The people on board the aircraft, along with pilot Frankham and team manager Soper, were Hugh Wadden, Robert O’Toole, Norman Higdon and Tony Head. All were members of the Buchans Miners hockey team returning from Deer Lake after winning a five-game series against the Corner Brook Royals on Saturday night. Word was received on Sunday evening that the aircraft was missing. There was some confusion about where the plane went down as Frankham had radioed earlier that he was going to attempt a landing on Red Indian Lake. An intensive aerial search of a 40-mile radius of Buchans was started immediately. Two Lancaster aircrafts from R.C.A.F. Torbay, and an E.P.A. Beaver piloted by Paul Hlookoff all took part in the search.

None of the survivors was dressed for cold weather survival and they had to wear hockey sweaters and socks to keep warm. They spent a long and uncomfortable 21 hours in the bush with near zero temperatures, freezing rain and cold winds.

After an all day search of the area on Monday, wreckage and smoke was spotted by Constable Bruce Gillingham of the RCMP in the E.P.A. Beaver. Upon hearing an aircraft overhead, the survivors walked to a nearby clearing so the pilot could see that all of the men were well and accounted for. Cooper radioed Buchans at 5 p.m. that the downed craft was found and great relief was expressed upon hearing the news. The people of Buchans remembered a plane crash in September of 1951 that took the lives of five men when a Norseman aircraft went down near South Pond. George Pike, a star player with the Buchans Miners, was killed in that crash.

Upon discovering the men, the R.C.A.F. air dropped emergency supplies to the ground. The air drop was right on target as the men had to quickly get out of the way of the falling supplies. All emergency rations on board the downed Beaver had been consumed by the survivors. Shortly thereafter, pilots Cooper and Hlookoff landed nearby, picked up the survivors and returned to Buchans. Cheers of great joy and thanksgiving were shown for their deliverance from the ordeal. Upon discovering the men, the R.C.A.F. air dropped emergency supplies to the ground. The air drop was right on target as the men had to quickly get out of the way of the falling supplies. All emergency rations on board the downed Beaver had been consumed by the survivors. Shortly thereafter, pilots Cooper and Hlookoff landed nearby, picked up the survivors and returned to Buchans. Cheers of great joy and thanksgiving were shown for their deliverance from the ordeal.