New book recalls the lives of those lost

Steve Bartlett
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Author Gary Collins holds a copy of his book “Where Eagles Lie Fallen,” which examines the Dec. 12, 1985 crash of an Arrow Air DC-8 carrying 248 U.S. soliders home from a peacekeeping missing. — Photo by Andrea Gunn/The Beacon

Author Gary Collins recently spoke with some families of the men and women who lost their lives in the Arrow Air crash.

It’s his opinion that most of them still don’t have closure.

“A lot of them are still torn,” Collins said this week.

“Most of them received the bodies of their sons and daughters months after, and as you can imagine, all that time it was terrible waiting.

“And, even then, most of them received the bodies in canisters or urns. I doubt there was much closure to that particular part of it.”

The Hare Bay writer spoke with the families for his new book, “Where Eagles Lie Fallen: The Crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285, Gander, Newfoundland.”

His goal in writing the book, his fifth, was to tell a human interest story that reflected the lives of the lost and their loved ones.

He said he avoided the supposed mysteries and conspiracy theories and stuck to people stories.

He made contact with some of the families through the Internet.

The research was daunting, Collins said, but his efforts led to some powerful experiences.

“I had a mother from Texas who, initially, barely told me one sentence about her son who died, and after a month or so, she was telling me volumes to the point where she actually came here (in October). … She went to the site many times and it was very sad, very traumatic.”

Collins also interviewed local people who were involved in the crash response.

“I talked to the first doctor. … I talked to the first fireman, the first policeman, who were on the scene. Their stories are terrible, mind-boggling, very traumatic.

“The one thing that got me about the whole incident, with all the interviews that I did with the people of Gander who had been on the site, it was this weird silence (they experienced that morning).”

That silence came through in interviews, too, he added, as people spoke to him in hushed voices.

Collins was working in the woods as a logger on the morning of Arrow Air Flight 1285. He was just 50 or 60 kilometres away.

He had no idea at the time that he’d write a book about the crash 25 years later.

But he has, and he hopes in some small way,  it’s brought the memories of the soldiers and crew to life.

He doesn’t believe the victims have been remembered well enough and he’d like the book to be a legacy to them.

“My hope is that the stories … are representative of them all. And I hope it goes over well.”

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Arrow Air, The Crash of Arrow Air Flight 1285

Geographic location: Gander, Hare Bay, Newfoundland Texas

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Recent comments

  • Dianne barody
    March 27, 2015 - 00:10

    My brother John Richard Wright was on that plane

  • Robert Smith
    May 12, 2013 - 19:57

    Did you interview any members of the Canadian Forces who were at the crash site? Have any personnel at the crash site suffered health problems?