Re­turn­ing to tragedy

Re­turn to the site to mark 50th an­niver­sary of CSA Flight 523

The Beacon (Gander) - - Front page - BY ADAM RANDELL Adam.randell@gan­der­bea­con.ca

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.”

ADAM RANDELL/THE BEA­CON

Czech Air crash sur­vivors Alena Zi­mova and Michael Kloc re­turned to Gan­der to mark the 50th an­niver­sary of CSA Flight 523 on Sept. 5.

ADAM RANDELL/THE BEA­CON

Alena Zi­mova lays flow­ers at the Czech Air memorial in re­spect of those who lost their lives in the crash.

ADAM RANDELL/THE BEA­CON

Kloc’s daugh­ter Sa­man­tha, left, and wife Linda, made the trip from On­tario to be with Michael dur­ing his first visit since the crash.

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