I've lived in North Vancouver, Canada for just over 7 years. Now and then I've heard the rumor of a plane that crashed into Grouse Mountain not far from my house. The other day my buddy John McGrath and I decided to go for a run on some obscure back trails and find the wreckage.
The Truth is Out There
If it was just me telling it, I'm sure nobody would believe a story like this. I first went to the Internet to see if there was any truth in the legend. Sure enough, there is a gold mine of information out there about the incident. This particular site
, which seems to be focused on UFOs, had some really cool newspaper articles and photos. (I've shared a few excerpts below to save you some keystrokes...)
Anyway, armed with only a vague idea of where the crash occurred, John and I went out for our run starting at my place in the Edgemont area of North Vancouver. I am pleased to confirm that we found the turbine from this plane crash intact in the woods!
Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so bragging rights can not be substantiated. Maybe one weekend day I will organize a flash run to the location if anyone is interested. It will cost you a beer
to learn the exact details from me in the meantime, but I will share with you that the crash site is less than an hour run from downtown Edgemont village and that there is also an old, rundown cabin to explore, as well, near the crash site. We didn't find rockets or hunks of fuselage from the jet, but I did come across parts of an old pot-bellied stove some logger likely used to cook his beans around the turn of the century.
Another Local Plane Crash on Seymour
This is another story for another post, but the next time you see Club Fat Ass member Doug "Creampuff" Keir out on the trails, ask him about the time he actually *found* a crash site while out for a hike/run on Mount Seymour! (My understanding is that the one he found had been lost for 30 years and had the remains of a dozen people on board.)
Creampuff figures the authorities cleaned the site up fairly well, but that there may be some pieces of the wreak still embedded in trees. This site is about a 2 hour run from my place. I'll be sure to bring the camera if I track that one down.
F86 Wreckage on Grouse Mountain, Feb. 15, 1954
Scattered over an area of 300 yards was shattered wreckage of U.S. Air Force F-86 Sabre after it smashed into Grouse Mountain near chair lift Friday bringing instant death to pilot Lt. Lamar Barlow of Tacoma. This is remains of powerful motor which propelled the jet fighter at a speed greater than sound. Investigators report that faulty radar was responsible for crash - George Diack photo.
CRASHED AT SONIC SPEED
Radar "Ghost in Sky" Led Pilot Into Grouse Mountain
United States Air Force investigators today reported a radar "ghost" led the pilot of a supersonic F-86 Sabre jet to believe that he was over Tacoma and not Vancouver when his craft slammed into Grouse Mountain at the speed of sound on Friday.
The tragic error was revealed by the examination of a group of investigators who spent Saturday combing the twisted, scattered wreckage in which Lieutenant Lamar J. Barlow, 25, of Tacoma, met instant death.
Major Craig Fairburn, head of the 12-man team, said in Tacoma today that investigation was continuing.
Fairburn's party returned to McChord Field with Barlow's remains Saturday night and a maintenance team arrived here today to begin picking up and crating the wreckage for shipment to McChord for study.
Major Fairburn said radar operators probably mistook the "ghost'" or echo, for Barlow's jet fighter. Barlow was following directions being given for this echo when he splattered the mountainside with wreckage after hitting at a speed estimated at more than 760 miles an hour.
Radar experts described the radar echo as being much the same as a television "ghost." It is quite common in the Pacific Northwest.
Captain R. A. Bins said he believed Barlow had been flying at the speed of sound when his F-86 hit the mountain.
Captain R. Allison, official investigating officer, said that Barlow had radioed he was just breaking through the overcast when he crashed.
"It is hard to understand why he would be travelling so fast while coming in so low," said Allison.
The plane hit the mountain at 2700 feet, about 200 feet below the cloud layer.
Major Fairburn said the 25-year-old pilot was "fairly inexperienced" at flying the super-sonic F-86 fighter.
Fairburn agreed with Captain Allison and Bins who said Barlow should have bailed out rather than try to bring his plane in without instruments.
"His electronic compass which enabled him to navigate blind was out of order," said Fairburn.
"When the radar station picked him up he figured he could come in safely on their instructions.
"Experienced pilots usually listen to what radar operators have to say, then use the knowledge as best they can.
"What we believe Barlow did, was trust completely in the information being relayed to him. He probably thought he was over Tacoma," the major said.
Lieutenant Barlow radioed his base Friday morning that the compass had failed and that he was lost. Radar operators then picked up his image on their screen at McChord and also on the secret radar near the border.
They directed the image for about 15 minutes before the fatal echo appeared on the screen, the Army official said.
Major Fairburn said contrary to other reports, their was nothing secret about the equipment destroyed in the crash.
"We were worried only about explosives," he said explaining the heavy guard which was placed over the wreck.
"There were 24 rockets on the plane when it crashed, each with the destructive equivalent of a 250-pund bomb," he said.
The major added that none of the explosives could be set off except with electronic devices. He said "nearly all" of the rockets have been recovered.
American medical officers removed pieces of the pilot's body from the wreck as dusk fell over the mountain Saturday.