It’s been 34 years since the crash of Air Ontario 1363 – which claimed the lives of 24 passengers and crew members near the Dryden Regional Airport in 1989.
On March 10 of 1989, Captain George John Morwood was preparing his Fokker F-28 aircraft for take-off after making a quick stop in Dryden, as 69 passengers and crew travelled from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg.
Captain Morwood was facing heavy snowfall that day and was forced to wait for a second aircraft to land before attempting take-off, causing ice and snow to form on the F-28’s wings.
Unfortunately, Morwood and his crew did not have access to a working Auxillary Power Unit at the time – which made de-icing the plane in Dryden impossible.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada notes the usually cautious Captain had cancelled flights due to weather concerns earlier in his career - but that day, he decided to attempt take-off anyways.
Less than 60 seconds later, the twin-engine aircraft’s wings failed to lift and its fuselage split into three pieces as it struck the trees and brush at the end of the runway, immediately catching fire.
As emergency crews began responding, survivors were seen struggling to get out of the burning craft.
Dryden Police, firefighters, paramedics, volunteers and more all helped bring survivors to the nearest roadway and helped to transport them to the hospital – which had called in every staff member available.
Emergency responders and hospital workers both received commendations for their work that day.
22 of the plane’s 69 passengers lost their lives that day, and 2 later died in the hospital. Deaths included 21 passengers and 3 of the 4 crew members on board, which included Captain Morwood and Keith Mills.
A monument to those who lost their lives that day can now be found on McArthur Road.
A two-year inquiry into the crash was undertaken by the Transportation Safety Board, which determined the cause of the crash to be snow and ice accumulating on the wings of the plane.
The 1989 crash later led to policy changes on re-fueling and de-icing across Canada.