Pilot's sons visit remains of plane 65 years after father's fatal crash

·2 min read
Mark and Elwyn Behnke ventured into the woods of northern New Brunswick to see the remains of the plane that crashed 65 years ago, killing their pilot father. (Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA - image credit)
Mark and Elwyn Behnke ventured into the woods of northern New Brunswick to see the remains of the plane that crashed 65 years ago, killing their pilot father. (Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA - image credit)

Two brothers got a chance this week to see the place where their father died in a plane crash 65 years ago in the woods of northern New Brunswick.

On June 20, 1957, the plane piloted by 31-year-old pilot Elwyn Behnke of southwest Oregon crashed near Route 180, about halfway between Bathurst and Saint-Quentin.

Elwyn's body was recovered and brought back to Eagle Point, Ore., where his wife and six sons lived. The plane, however, was left in the forest because it would have taken too much effort and money to remove it.

Elywyn was part of a program in the 1950s that sprayed the pesticide DDT across New Brunswick to prevent the spread of the spruce budworm.

Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA
Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA

Recently, two of Behnke's six sons arrived in New Brunswick from the U.S. to see the place where they lost their father. They held a ceremony to honour him on Friday.

Mark Behnke of Texas and Elynwyn Behnke Jr. of Washington state travelled from the United States for the ceremony.

"I feel relieved," said Mark, who was seven when his father died.

"It answers many of my questions," said his brother Elwyn, who was almost nine when the plane crashed.

Two commemorative plaques

About a dozen people ventured deep into the woods to see the plane's remains and to honour Behnke.

Two plaques were placed near the plane as part of the ceremony, including one by the provincial branch of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society.

Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA
Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA

The Behnke family also placed a plaque there in memory of the senior Elwyn.

Forestry worker Danny Pelletier, who came across the plane's remains in 2019, was present at the ceremony.

Pelletier found the wreckage by accident, while cutting wood in the area.

Then he discovered a serial number at the site, which later helped to identify the aircraft and pilot.

Mark said he is grateful to all the New Brunswickers who made the ceremony possible.

Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA
Serge Bouchard/RADIO-CANADA

The family of André Mercier of Balmoral, who tracked down the Behnke family after the crash site was found, was also present at the ceremony.

Elwyn Jr. had a special moment when he sat in the pilot's seat.

"Touching the same controls that my dad's hands touched is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life," he said.