FLIGHT 621 RESOLUTION: How Mike Strobel's Article Led to Memorial (Air Canada crash 1970)
TWO MONTHS LATER a commercial airliner (American Airlines with 260 people aboard) goes down in Queens, NY on November 12th, 2001 - right in the heart of the city.
Was this another act of Islamist terrorism, the world was wondering?
And with that uncertainty, fear, and anger reverberating in everyone's minds, plane crashes were now very prominent in the international psyche.
Enter Mike Strobel.
One of Toronto's most famous and affable writers, a writer with an efficient and evocative writing style, who says so much in remarkably few words MIKE STROBEL of SUN News pens a human interest article (November 14, 2001) revisiting the crash site of AIR CANADA Flight 621.
In the article, he reviews the sad contents of the flight's CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder).
Mike then takes us to the crash site in Castlemore with 'one of the originals', the most ancient farmer of Castlemore proper, Lorne Robinson. The Robinson family had been farming their 500+ acres since the beginning of Ontario.
Throughout this article, Strobel relates to us the story of the Burgsma family via Wilhelmina Burgsma, who was only 13 at the time.
Flight 621 crashed in the Burgsmas' front yard, her front yard, a mere 150 feet from the house.
The windows of Will's home were blown out — on the crash side of the house that sunny July morning, as Mike notes.
What folks may not have known was Air Canada didn't actually replace the Burgmas' windows till fall of that year! No need. It was only fall, after all…
And really, the grudging replacement occurred only AFTER one of the daily newspapers highlighted the windowless plight of that shivering family of 12! YES, twelve, including a tiny baby!
However, finally, and most importantly, at least for our intentions here … Mike Strobel relates in his article the approximate location of Flight 621's final resting place.
And THAT little disclosure would change everything.
For me. And ultimately for the families of Flight 621.
Because now I knew I could find the crash site.
And seven months later, in June 2002, I wandered right in.
What I found there shocked and astonished me.
An aisle marker, aircraft wreckage pieces, and human bone shards.
What I didn't know is that initial discovery would eventually lead to the field finally being 'cleaned up' once and for all … and a long-promised memorial finally being erected on the site of the actual crash, remembering the tragic loss of 109 passengers and crew on Flight 621 in Castlemore.
It would also lead into the Flight 621 families finally meeting one another, on-site, because Lynda Weinburg Fishman (who lost her mother and two sisters in the crash) proposed two such meetings to the planning partners, the land owners, and the land developers. First meeting was in 2010, and then for the final 2013 dedication.
I think, these ingenious suggestions of Lynda (Author, Repairing Rainbows), have probably gone further in bringing consolation, and hopefully, some "peace" as Diarmuid Horgan stated. These 621 families were formerly separate and disconnected, but now because of Lynda's suggestion to Diarmuid, these victim families were brought together on two separate occasions. Now these Flight 621 families could finally grieve together.
Not only grieve, folks … but share and enjoy memories of their loved ones, reflect, and take delight in them, once more … in the company of those who could only understand that these departed, were still, still, cherished.
Precious, and dear, always. Never to be forgotten.
Yes, a hundred and nine people died on July 5, 1970 on Air Canada Flight 621, but no love was extinguished on that tragic day; no love was even diminished.
Where it started for Friends of Flight 621
At the 'Clean-up'.
This was Friends of Flight 621's veiled language for collecting and clearing the '621 field' of the outstanding crew and passengers' bones that would be found on the surface of the 'crash arena', through the years. To some, we were 'crazy'. All we wanted for these people, these Flight 621 victims, whose remains were inadvertently missed at the time in 1970, was for them to be finally gathered up and properly buried in the consecrated ground of a cemetery.
Imagine, such radicalism.
And just for the reader's reference … all major and minor bone shards the 'Friends' found, together with some contributed by Jan Burton, were handed over to CANDEVCON Ltd., and are to be examined by the Coroner's Office in Brampton.
In the near future the outstanding remains are to be interred in Mount Pleasant cemetery where the original Flight 621 victim's graves are.
Our recent collection of 150 (plus) bone shards joins previous Friends of Flight 621 bone collections from 2002 and 2004. The Coroner's Office also found bones on-site in 2002. Several other collections of victim's bones were also gathered by Dana Poulton (D.R. Poulton & Associates Inc), an archeologist, who was called in by Diarmuid Horgan of Candevcon Ltd. as an expert consultant. On just one field sweep in 2006, Dana and his crew found ninety bones from the 1970 crash! In 2010, Dana did yet another field sweep, again at the request of Diarmuid and additional bones were found at that time.
Gee, that's a lotta' bones considering the now disgraced (and publicly stripped of his medical licence), Jim Cairns, the Former Deputy Coroner of the Province of Ontario, signed off on the crash field in 2004 … 'tenderly' telling inquiring Flight 621 family members, and the Toronto media … there was NO NEED for a clean-up, all the while the field was awash in bones and bone fragments!
The same nonsense, or rather, empty prattle was later told to another Flight 621 family that petitioned the Coroner's Office with my concerns in 2005, after one of their family members joined us in the 621 Field and SAW for themselves.
Of course, Mr. Cairn's ability to wave off people's concerns was exactly what cost him his medical licence in 2010. Dr. Cairns signed off, and vigorously defended the also now disgraced paediatric pathologist Dr. Charles Smith, the 'expert' who 'investigated' child abuse cases for the province of Ontario, and whose testimony put people away behind bars. Unjustly.
Sure, all those families were torn apart when falsely accused parents and caregivers went to jail. For years. But no matter, it was only people's lives.
Dr. Smith's lousy assessment skills, which fortunately, were, eventually, overturned by a competent investigator. But for many, it was too late. These are the stories the media almost never covers in detail. The broken lives. The aftermath. And although there had been many complaints about Dr. Smith's competence through the years … all that didn't matter because what a friend he had in Jimmy!
You know, as luck would have it … or perhaps something more, Mr. Cairns, there are several lawyers amongst the Flight 621 victim's families.
However, back to our summary, all current outstanding crash victims' bones are bound for burial at Mount Pleasant, sometime in the summer of 2013.
Finally, in 2013, the Flight 621 Memorial Garden and Cemetery in Castlemore is now complete; officially dedicated on July 7th by the attending Flight 621 families, and Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell with Councillor John Sprovieri assisting. Friends of Flight 621 (Carol Parr, Carrie Parr, Barbara Winckler and Paul Cardin) were in attendance.
The Flight 621 on-site, crash-site memorial concept, by the way, was first put forth by Tom Stone (Friends of Flight 621) in 2003, as Tom was the first to suggest it to Brampton City Councillor John Sprovieri, who agreed to present Tom's idea to the City's planning department at the time, right after the 2003 elections. All Toronto area media falsely reported a few weeks back that the memorial was the idea of a former Castlemore resident whose name escapes me. Not true. It was Tom Stone's idea. And, as always, I have the documentation to prove everything I state.
The only impediment to an on-site memorial being, according to Mr. Sprovieri in 2003, was that some of the 621 property was still in private ownership.
In October of 2003, Tom had also talked to John Milton (Air Canada's CEO) and later to David Robinson (Head of Air Canada's Real Estate Division) and originally Air Canada was in agreement with funding a Castlemore Flight 621 memorial.
Air Canada (James J. Vick, Victor J McCormick and Henry Bommer) even met Tom and myself, out in the field, on October 24, 2003 to gather information. This trio found all sorts of DC-8 wreckage that day. These AC execs were publicly unruffled by our late fall, on-site gathering… but, now folks put your index finger in front of your lips for this … the very next week, Air Canada returned in full-force, with a filming crew and the entire crash site was filmed at that time.
However, as usual, Air Canada 'coughed the puck' back then, and nothing further was done.
In 2004, on the National, in a CBC broadcast … Carol Parr a 1970 eye-witness of the crash and a Friend of Flight 621, stated coast-to-coast, to the nation, "something needs to be done … for the people (victims) … a memorial".
A lot of people saw that CBC telecast.
(It is still available on line for viewing)
However, afterward, still nothing.
We, 'Friends' and the Flight 621 families were at an impasse.
Then a change in the status quo occurred.
CANDEVCON LIMITED was summoned in by the land developers and land owners. CANDEVCON started guiding the site development process beginning in 2005/2006 which finally got the '621 Field' on the road to finally, finally, looking like it might be cleaned-up.
Dana Poulton, at this time, in 2006, confirmed there was indeed a problem with the field. Human remains, victim remains, were spread throughout the soil of approximately 3.5 acres of the former crash arena.
What Barbara Winckler (Friends of Flight 621) had pointed out to me, in 2004, would now transpire with Poulton's confirmation. With Poulton's report, the '621 Field's' status changed and was officially re-classified under the Ontario Cemeteries Act as an 'irregular' cemetery.
As City of Brampton Counsellor John Sprovieri noted at the July 7 Flight 621 Memorial Dedication, the "home developers, who also have families, themselves", came to understand the plight and unusual situation the families of Flight 621 found themselves in.
It was THEY, these very home developers, not Air Canada, who shouldered the final cost of the 'clean-up' and also the subsequent design and installation of the Flight 621 (Castlemore) Memorial Gardens and Cemetery.
A truly noble offering.
So if you need to buy a new home, now, or in the future, these seven builders can only be recommended.
Port Mark Investments Ltd.
Mcveanone Developments Limited
Opus Homes (River’s Edge) Inc
2073737 Ontario Inc / 2073740 Ontario Inc.
Trinison Management Corporation
Daniels LR Corporation
The Calo-Bellissimo Group
In the end, everything Friends of Flight 621 advocated for since the very beginning was achieved.
Yet, without that original Mike Strobel article …there never would have been any clean-up or any memorial.
How do we know this? For sure?
Well, nothing had happened for 32 years in that field … until the point I had walked into field.
And it was a CONCERTED EFFORT, by MANY to get any progress in the field EVEN AFTER my, then our, collective discoveries were made public… and continued to be publicized through the years.
THREE WEB SITES (of my creation) were broadcasting updates of the continuing horror in the field, complete with photos of bones not buried, and wreckage left behind. Yes, these multiple postings all through the nine long years were serving to keep the unforgivable situation current in the public's mind.
Many Flight 621 family members, or family friends, saw our Friends of Flight 621 web site, the newspaper articles, the blog posts, and/or the TV and radio coverage through the years, and contacted us. Some even came out to the field, and joined our search efforts.
They all thanked us.
I even got some further and unexpected acknowledgment from family members at the July 7, 2013 Memorial Dedication, itself.
But really, it wasn't just me.
I accepted thanks, really, for Friends of Flight 621.
FRIENDS of FLIGHT 621
Paul Cardin (first to notify the authorities concerning the presence of Flight 621 human remains) field researcher 2002
Barbara Winckler (crash eyewitness), early and later crash research 1999
Carol Parr (crash eyewitness) field, crash, and community researcher 2002
Carrie Parr field researcher 2002
Tom Stone field researcher, memorial advocate 2002
Rebecca Reid field researcher 2003
Mike Quatrale 1970 crash photographer 2004, field researcher, deceased
Very Honourable Mention:
Anil Sharma 2010 Flight 621 facebook site creator and administrator
Jan Burton 2011 field researcher
SEE PHOTO MONTAGE in LARGE: www.flickr.com/photos/78215847@N00/9462904998/sizes/o/
Anyone STILL in possession of crash victim bones needs (hopefully, there is no one) to turn them over to CANDEVCON Ltd. for 2013 summer burial by the Coroner's Office (no questions asked):
9358 Goreway Drive, Brampton, Ontario, (905) 794-0600 where the Coroner will retrieve them.
(left to right, Janice Hamilton (Daughter of Captain Peter Hamilton), P. Belanger (Belanger family of five), Lynda Weinburg Fishman (mother, two sisters), Linda Partridge (mother and father) and Brampton mayor, Susan Fennell.