Pilot who survived 1957 airplane crash in Squamish, dies

Bernie McCormack was one of two survivors of the Royal Canadian Airforce crash in Paradise Valley

Bernie McCormack, the pilot who survived the airplane crash on Sunday, Jan. 13, 1957 in the dense brush at the northern end of Paradise Valley, has died.

An obituary for him states the 83-year-old died suddenly on June 2, his family by his side.

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After a piece of the wing of the downed T-33 plane was discovered sticking out of a ditch on Government Road last summer, The Chief spoke to McCormack for a story about surviving the crash. He was one of two survivors.  The men in the other plane, Burton Patkau, 27, and Roderick Atkins, 19, died.

“I was in the bush on the side of Brandywine mountain with severe burns to my hands, wrapped in my parachute. I fired off flares — had to use my teeth,” he recalled to The Chief in July of 2018.

He was rescued the next day, flown to Shaughnessy Hospital and then spent six months getting skin grafting for severe burns on his hands.

Squamish’s John Buchanan took on researching the story of the crash and was a source on the incident for The Chief.

“He talked about every maneuver the jet made as if it were yesterday,” Buchanan said on Monday.

“In my mind, he will always be that 21-year-old young man who survived against all odds.”

Buchanan said McCormack had wanted to write a book, and clear up the details surrounding the incident.”

The original articles about the incident at the time, didn’t get it quite right, McCormack had told The Chief.

Flying was a big part of McCormack’s life from a young age.

After McCormack graduated from Burnaby South High school, he trained as a pilot with the Air Force in Claresholm, Alberta.  He later worked for Air Canada (formerly TCA).

He retired from Air Canada in August 1995.  “He will be missed by everyone whose life he touched,” reads his obituary published in the Vancouver Sun.

He leaves behind his wife of 61 years, Sheila, his three surviving children, 10 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren, and his brother Ken.

A memorial service took place on June 17, in Coquitlam.

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