A BAD FEELING
The engine screamed and the wildly spinning rubber track clawed for grip as I tore up the steep hillside. White, powdery snow poured over the windshield and straight into my grinning face. Bursting over the summit and with the throttle still pinned I made a hard right turn and slid through a full 180. I hit the kill switch and stopped just short of the edge. The world around me was suddenly plunged into dead silence except for the sound of my excited breathing and the ticking noise emanating from the snow soaked engine sitting in from of me. I slowly removed my goggles and peered out at the snow covered forest and creek valley that stretched out before me.
It was Grey Cup Sunday, Nov 24, 1974. I was 12 years old and was out riding my snowmobile about a mile from our home near Fort St. John, BC, Canada. The Grey Cup (the Canadian version of the US Super Bowl) had been televised on our lone TV channel earlier that day and I had watched the Montreal Alouettes beat the Edmonton Eskimos, 20 to 7, on a rain soaked field in Vancouver, BC. It was an exciting game and I really enjoyed it. After the last player was interviewed and the last drop of Champagne was doused over someone’s head, I flicked the TV off and decided to go for a quick ride in the fading afternoon light. That was one of the great things about growing up in the country; having the freedom to just take off whenever one felt the urge.
As I now sat in the quiet stillness, the deteriorating weather swirling around me……an eerie feeling washed over me and I sensed the presence of danger (this wasn’t all that unusual as I had a tendency to worry a lot). The joy and rush of excitement I was feeling vanished.
My mind did a quick scan for any potential explanations of why I felt so spooked. I looked up at the grey sky as heavy snowflakes stung my eyes. Suddenly I realized that my parents and younger brother were flying home this very afternoon in my father’s light aircraft after a weekend excursion. My mind quickly flashed to an image of the small plane lumbering thru the winter sky and I felt a chill run down my spine. It was now 4pm and it would be getting dark soon. I often had anxieties about my father flying and I was especially uneasy about him flying in bad weather and this particular day was turning into a real mess, real fast.
I reached for the recoil starter and in one quick motion I started the machine and nailed the throttle with my thumb. I tore down the hill and raced across the valley heading for home.
My ominous feelings were not in vain, for almost at that exact moment, almost 200 miles away in a high mountain pass….. my parent’s plane had just slammed into a frozen lake.
Life for my family changed forever that afternoon and would never be the same again.
This story is about the tragedy and triumph of that plane crash.
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