1963 Yukon Nuggets
RCMP Air Crash
Sunday July 13, 1963, was one of those delightfully warm Yukon summer evenings. That would all change at 8.10 p.m.
The RCMP Beaver aircraft CF-MPO with four Mounties on board had left Whitehorse bound for Mayo to pick up a prisoner. Fifty-six-year-old Phillip Desormeaux was being brought back to Whitehorse after appearing as a witness in a court case in Mayo.
The Beaver was a reliable workhorse, and Sergeant Morley Laughland a skilled pilot. On board that fateful day, with the pilot and prisoner, were Corporal Robert Asbil, Constable William Annand and Constable Laurence Malcolm.
Bob Asbil, who joined the force in 1956, was making a name for himself in the Yukon as a top-notch criminal investigator. He cracked the puzzling case of the missing French student, Henri Meriguet, though the suspect was never brought to trial and eventfully hanged himself.
In '63, he was to travel to Ottawa to compete against other RCMP sharpshooters in the annual revolver competition for the Connaught Trophy.
William Annand had joined the Mounties in 1955 and, over the years, had made a name for himself as an outstanding athlete. Arriving in Whitehorse in March, he was looking forward to the coming hockey season, having heard that the Whitehorse Senior league featured a pretty fast-paced game. Proctor Malcolm joined the Mounties in 1954 and had only been in the Yukon since April, so this trip to Mayo was part of the familization for newcomers to the detachment.
On the return flight from Mayo, the weather was clear and the wind calm as the Beaver made its approach for a landing in Carmacks. According to witnesses, the aircraft was making a second circle of the river near the Carmacks bridge.
Then, Fred Stretch, a forest ranger, saw the plane strike the riverbank just below the Mayo road. A territorial government employee, Norm Woodcock, said he too heard the aircraft as it made a second approach, and then heard a loud crash.
He ran outside his house and saw smoke coming from behind the territorial garage. By the time he reached the scene, the demolished aircraft was engulfed in flames.
Four Mounties and the prisoner had died on impact.
The inquest that followed the tragic event found no evidence of an aircraft malfunction that would cause the crash.
Residents at Carmacks told the inquest that unusual wind patterns often occur in the Carmacks basin near the Yukon River, even when it appears to be calm.
In bringing back its findings, a jury of six men from Whitehorse, including well known local pilot Lloyd Romfo, recommended that the Department of Transport install a windsock in Carmacks, giving credence to the theory that a sudden unexpected gust of wind threw the Beaver aircraft into the riverbank only a short distance from a final touchdown.
At the time, the loss of four members in a single incident was the biggest tragedy to occur in the Mounted Police in the century.
A funeral service for Sergeant Laughland was held in Whitehorse, while the bodies of Sergeant Asbil and Corporal's Annand and Malcolm were flown to their home towns outside the territory.
In November of 1963, more than 150 Whitehorse residents joined with members of the Mounted Police and the armed forces in -25°F weather to dedicate a plaque to the four members, a memorial which stands at the base of the flag pole in front of the main detachment.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.