July 16, 2018 4:19 pm

Province ‘very sorry’ for cleaning up Alberta plane wreckage without warning families

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier speaks at the Alberta legislature Monday, June 13, 2016.

Tom Vernon, Global News

The province of Alberta is apologizing to the families of three people killed in a plane crash almost 65 years ago after cleaning up the wreckage without warning.

A memorial site in central Alberta included the debris of the small plane that went down on Nov. 22, 1953.

The Cesna-180 was on a mercy flight from Grande Prairie to Edmonton because polio patient Lloyd Williams, 33, needed to be put on an iron lung. Others on board included the pilot Gordon MacDonald and Dr. Donald Wilson, who volunteered to make the flight.

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They crashed about 15 kilometres north of Whitecourt, Alta., and all three men were killed. Their families put up a memorial plaque and scattered ashes nearby.

The memorial is still there, but the plane’s wreckage was cleaned up by Alberta Environment and Parks last fall.

“There was a protective notation on the location for the memorial, but not the debris,” said Matt Dykstra, a spokesman for the department.

Crews cleaned it up for safety reasons because of increasing public use in the area, he said. But he said the province should have consulted the families before removing the plane’s wreckage.

“That was a mistake,” he said. “We’re very sorry this happened.”

Whitecourt-Ste. Anne MLA Oneil Carlier, who’s also the minister of agriculture, said the province is trying to fix the mistake.

“My heart goes out to them, and I understand how this would have impacted them,” Carlier said in a statement. “I’ll be reaching out to the families to see how I can make this right, and how the memories of the victims can best be respected.”

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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