The following is the Accident Report Narrative from the official accident report.
It was written by Captain Hybki for the board of inquiry.
The accident occurred at 1832 hours, PST, 19 Jan 1952. When the aircraft hit the top of
the hill, I was thrown out on top. I could hear the aircraft still falling (going down the
hill). I walked to the edge of the hill and waited there. At this time, I could hear
nothing. I started down the hill towards what I thought was civilization. When I was 1/3
of the way down the hill, I stopped to rest and heard noises. I blew the whistle on my Mae
West, I could now hear the others at the aircraft, and joined the rest of the party. The
others searched for clothes, got a jacket and boots for me, put me in an exposure suit,
and sleeping bag. I was shivering, but not from cold. I believe this was due to shock. Two
hours later I fell asleep.
The rest of the party was removing equipment from the wreck and building a windbreak with
the cutes. A life raft was used to make a floor in the shelter. The engineer (who was also
injured) and I were bedded down. When I woke after dawn, I awakened the rest of the party.
The engineer and I were removed from the sleeping bags and fitted with warm clothes, which
were obtained from the crew's bags. Our wounds were now dressed. We could find no first
aid kits from the airplane and had to use the ones from the rescue kits. The only
dressings available were compresses, which were very bulky hard to put on and harder to
use when applied. Some bandaids would have been very useful.
The three who were not seriously injured began gathering dry wood, pine needles and
inflammable parts from the wreck to use in the fires. Dry wood and pine needles are fine
for building fires and the rubberized materials from the plane are excellent for making
smoke. Fire was provided by matches that the crew had and from matches that were found in
the emergency kits. We now started a fire. Every kit was broken open and flares and smoke
bombs were removed. The abundance of kits was a big morale booster. The boat, with
supplies, was never found. Red and orange chutes, all our yellow equipment, sea marker
die, and a streamer were put out.
Aircraft were heard overhead but they passed over. I suppose that they were going to
previously assigned search areas. When aircraft were heard, we sent SGT Farmer to the top
of the hill to shoot flares. About 80% of the flares functioned properly. Only 1 out of 3
of the smoke flares worked. It was very difficult to get the tops off the smoke flares. It
is almost impossible to do with gloves or mittens on and with cold bare hands it is very
difficult. Some method should be devised so that one's teeth could be used.
Finally about 1000 hours a C-46 spotted the party and a few moments later, many aircraft
came over the area. I believe a URC4 transmitter was dropped. Food was now broken out
using first the tins with candy. We only ate one candy bar apiece, however, because we
thought that the candy might make us sick. This food was edible and in good condition. The
IF4s were opened and the food was frozen in them. Sterno was used to heat the food but was
very ineffective because the flame would go out in the slightest breeze. We all think that
cook cans would be much more satisfactory. This is the kind that heats the food by letting
air into an outer casing. SGT Scargall tried to make some coffee but due to using snow and
having difficulty with the sterno pots, the coffee was no good. The water jugs on the
plane could never be found. No attempt was made to look for the three others because no
one was in good enough shape to conduct the search. At this time the helicopter came and
took us away.
Additional information secured from the others:
The URC4 was used to signal but because of the topography (we were in a valley) no signal
was heard. The Gibson girl was smashed in the crash. Some other method of storing the
radio should be planned as the present method is not enough to keep the Gibson Girl from
tearing loose. Mittens should be placed in the emergency kits, as they keep the hands
warmer than gloves. There was no real arctic equipment in the emergency kits but there was
plenty of mosquito netting, repellent, etc which did not do us any good.
The following is the "Description of Accident" from the official accident
AF 44-85746A was returning to McChord AFB, Washington, from Sandspit, B.C., where
aircraft had been conducting a search mission during daylight hours on 19 January 1952.
The mission was broken down as follows: 3:45 to Sandspit, B.C.,
aircraft changed to VFR flight plan and continued on the search mission for 2 hours, 40
minutes. Aircraft then landed at Sandspit and filed clearance (IFR) to McChord
AFB, Washington. Takeoff was made at 1530 PST and flight was uneventful to
Dungeness, Washington, except for flight wind from the left about which the co-pilot has
remarked in his statement.
GCI plot and crews' statement indicates aircraft was flying on the right edge of
airways. Last position report was at Dungeness marker (1827PST). (It is the
opinion of the board that when aircraft passed Dungeness marker, it crossed on the extreme
west end). Aircraft then turned to heading of 118 degrees mag, paralleling the
NW leg of Seattle range. Approximately 5-10 minutes past Dungeness, aircraft
ran into snow precipitation static and lost use of all radios except the radio-compass on
the loop wing tip position; pilots stated they picked up an "A" signal with beam
background. Extreme turbulence was then encountered. Shortly
thereafter, crew witnesses a flash explosion in nose which came up under instrument panel.
Immediately thereafter the crash occurred, at approximately 1840 PST.
Fire broke out during the crash, first in the lower forward cockpit, then fire broke
out in aft section of bomb bay followed by fire in forward section of bomb bay. No
tanks exploded, no attempts were made to extinguish fire due to aircraft breaking up.
Aircraft burned slowly all night.
It is the opinion of this board that the pilots misinterpreted their position on the
airways which resulted in flying too far out from NW leg of Seattle range while turning
inbound to Seattle radio. A report from a West Coast Airlines pilot revealed
extremely high winds from the S.E., in the immediate vicinity of Dungeness marker at 5,000
feet. This wind, and the position of the SB-17 could have resulted in the aircraft
being blown further west to point of impact, 6.5 miles from the edge of airways.
Extreme turbulence which was noted prior to crash was no doubt caused by low
flight over mountainous area in which aircraft crashed. Precipitation static
rendered radios unusable. The lack of correction for high winds resulted in the
aircraft being blown west of course.
The crew of AF 44-85746A were alerted at 0300, 19 January 1952 to take off at 0430, 19
January 1952, for search mission out of Sandspit, B.C. Crew had been on instruments
to Sandspit and then on VFR low altitude search of the Pacific waters, then lunch at
Sandspit and an instrument flight to McChord, the latter part of the flight being at night
on instruments which may have resulted in fatigue.