Fort Wainwright to mark 30 years after deadly C-130 crash
A somber ceremony at Fort Wainwright next week will mark the 30th anniversary of a Canadian military plane crash at Fort Wainwright, which left nine of that country’s service members dead.
U.S. Army Alaska officials said both U.S. and Canadian representatives will travel to Fort Wainwright on Tuesday, where a 9:45 a.m. gathering will honor the soldiers killed in the C-130 cargo plane’s Jan. 29, 1989 crash.
“It’s just going to be a small memorial ceremony,” said U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell.
The wreck took place at the height of the Cold War, during Exercise Brim Frost 89 — a joint U.S.-Canadian operation that was among the precursors of Alaska’s current-day Northern Edge exercises. At the time it was meant to ready the two countries’ Arctic warriors for potential combat against the Soviet Union, which began to collapse the following year and ceased to exist in 1991.
“The exercise was designed to test the ability of U.S. and Canadian forces to conduct winter operations,” U.S. Army Alaska officials wrote in a statement. “The $15 million exercise involved 26,000 troops, 120 aircraft and 8,000 vehicles.”
A UPI story at the time said that in addition to the nine Canadians killed in the crash, more than 250 injuries including 88 frostbite cases were reported during Brim Frost 89. A mock “force-on-force” fight involving all 26,000 troops was reduced by 90 percent amid wind chills that sometimes reached 120 degrees below zero, and poor weather that kept vehicles from operating and grounded many of the aircraft flights — including those by C-130s — planned during the two-week exercise.
The plane that crashed was the second C-130 of three flights from Edmonton, Alberta set to land at Fort Wainwright’s Ladd Field that evening. After the first plane landed safely, the C-130 approached the field carrying a crew of eight, as well as 10 special service paratroopers set to join a force-on-force exercise involving about 435 Canadian paratroopers.
“At the time of the crash, a thick, icy fog blanketed the runway and the temperature registered around 60 degrees below zero,” U.S. Army officials wrote.
According to The New York Times, the C-130 hit the end of the runway, broke in half and skidded about a quarter of a mile down the tarmac. Army officials said the third plane diverted to Fairbanks International Airport after the crash, which left three of its initial 10 survivors seriously injured.
Warrant Officer Joseph Arsenault, 33
Master Cpl. John MacKinnon, 35
Cpl. Robert Allen, 24
Cpl. Paul McGinnis, 24
Master Bombardier Donald Smith, 28
Cpl. Lee Wright, 26
Lt. Richard Moore, 37
Cpl. Joseph Paul-Emile Castouguay, 36
Days later, a ninth crash victim, 40-year-old Master Cpl. Louis Papineau-Couture, died in a Fairbanks hospital.
“Rescuers rushed to the crash site without hesitation and found survivors struggling to pull themselves from the wreckage on the frozen ground,” Army officials wrote. “Local emergency responders joined Fort Wainwright's responders in getting the injured to medical care.”
Fairbanks’ response to the wreck extended well beyond the initial calls, according to the Army.
“Local residents from Fairbanks and Fort Wainwright donated blood as soon as the request went out,” Army officials wrote. “They sent flowers and compassionate notes of condolence. They offered assistance if needed. French students from the University of Alaska Fairbanks offered translation services.”
According to the Army, the crash was ultimately attributed to pilot error. KTVA queries to Canada’s Department of National Defence regarding its records on the crash were still pending Wednesday.
Tuesday’s event will also serve to open the annual Extreme Cold Weather Arctic Symposium, an event meant to “highlight the continuing importance of training in extreme cold weather and high altitude environments.”
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