Silent Witness Memorial

Gander, Newfoundland

On December 11, 1985, Arrow Air flight MF128-5R, a Douglas DC-8-63, US registration N950JW departed Cairo, Egypt on an international charter flight to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, USA, via Cologne, Germany, and Gander, Newfoundland. On board were eight crew members and 248 passengers. The flight was the return portion of the second in a series of three planned troop rotation flights originating at McChord Air Force Base, Washington, USA, and terminating in Multinational Force Observers (MFO) to transport troops, their personal effects and some military equipment to and from peace keeping duties in the Sinai Desert. All 248 passengers who departed Cairo on the 11th December 1985 were members of the 101st Airborne Division (United States Army) based in Fort Campbell.

The flight departed Cairo and arrived at Cologne on December 11th, 1985 for a planned technical stop. A complete crew change took place following which the flight departed Cologne for Gander at 11:20 pm Gander time.

The flight arrived at Gander at 5:34 am where passengers were de-planed and the aircraft was refuelled and serviced. The flight departed Gander on runway 22 from the intersection of runway 13 at 6:45 am. The aircraft gained little altitude after rotation and began to descend crossing the Trans-Canada Highway approximately 900 ft beyond the departure end of runway 22. The aircraft continued to descend until it struck down sloping terrain approximately 3000 ft beyond the departure end of the runway.

The aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and severe fuel-fed fire. All 256 occupants on board sustained fatal injuries.

The accident occurred at 6:46 am during the hours of darkness at an elevation of 279 feet above sea level. The Arrow Air Crash was the worst air disaster ever on Canadian soil.

On June 24th, 1990, a dedication ceremony was held in memory of the 101st Airborne Division . This memorial depicts an unarmed soldier standing atop a massive rock holding the hands of two civilian children. The children, a boy and a girl, each hold an olive branch, indicative of the peace keeping mission of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" on the Sinai Peninsula. Behind them rise three tall staff each bearing a flag, Canadian, American, and Newfoundland. As the trio stands looking into the future, they are surrounded by trees, hills, and rocks of the actual Arrow Air Crash site, overlooking Gander Lake in the direction of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. These natural surroundings are the "Silent Witnesses" of the precise moment when 256 dreams ended and the hearts and imaginations of an entire world were captured.

The memorial was designed by Lorne Rostotski of St. John's, Newfoundland, and sculpted by Stephen Sheilds of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, USA.

In June 1990, the statue was dedicated with several hundred people in attendance, including American family members and friends, local dignitaries as well as representatives of the Canadian and American Governments and Military.

The aircraft came to a final rest in what was once a heavily wooded area - now a peaceful grassy field. On December 12th, 1995 - ten years after the disaster - a memorial service was held with representatives of the Canadian and American military present, as well as local, provincial, and federal officials. At that time, a cross was dedicated to the memory of the lives lost ten years earlier.

(Text taken from two commemorative plaques.)

back main