Accident Report


Accident Report
Chain of events
The rescue

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 report:

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.