Returning to tragedy
Return to the site to mark 50th anniversary of CSA Flight 523
Marking the 50th anniversary of CSA Flight 523, Czech air crash survivors recall tragic events.
While Michael Kloc doesn’t consider himself an emotional man, he wiped away tears when laying flowers at the Czech Air crash memorial.
He was almost 10 when Flight 523 went down just off Gander’s runway in 1967, killing 32 of the 69 passengers instantly. Five others would later succumb to injuries sustained as a result of the crash, including Kloc’s mother.
Now living in Ontario, he made the trip to the Gander site on Sept. 5 to pay his respects.
It was his first time back to the site since the crash.
“It’s emotional,” he said, about returning.
His father was working in Cuba. Kloc and his mother were making the trip to meet him.
Arriving in Gander in 1967, he remembers visiting the gift shop, his mother buying him a dinky toy and playing with it on the plane during take off.
“That’s the last thing I remember before waking up in the bog,” he said.
“My mother always told me that if I ever thought I was dreaming to pinch myself. I pinched the side of my leg black and blue.”
Kloc was able to free himself from the bog, and made his way back to the fuselage looking for his mother.
“I remember people helping me because I was cold,” he said. “And other than a scar on my cheek I didn’t look injured, so I waited for helicopter to bring people out.”
He would spend three weeks in Gander hospital before being transferred to Montreal.
The 50th anniversary marked Alena Zimova’s third trip back to Gander since the crash.
She was 33, travelling in a group of five people – three of them died.
Taking off from the runway, Zimova was relaxing, when she heard an explosion and could see flames.
“I undone my seatbelt, stood up and I wanted to run away, instinct was kicking in,” she said. “But there was nowhere to run.”
So she stayed standing where she would normally sit, and tried to protect herself from the flames.
“I thought we were going to die, there was no way to think that we were going to survive,” she said.
The impact of the crash ripped the plane apart leaving those who survived the crash injured and afraid on the bog, until rescue crews were able to reach them.
To be back at the site 50 years later, emotionally, she said, “It hits you with one big bang.”
“You remember your colleagues, the people who died here…and at the same time you think about the other people who saved us and took care of us. They all did incredible work.”
Czech Air crash survivors Alena Zimova and Michael Kloc returned to Gander to mark the 50th anniversary of CSA Flight 523 on Sept. 5.
Alena Zimova lays flowers at the Czech Air memorial in respect of those who lost their lives in the crash.
Kloc’s daughter Samantha, left, and wife Linda, made the trip from Ontario to be with Michael during his first visit since the crash.