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Monument to doomed Air Canada Flight 621 at crash site in Brampton

July 2021

Air travel is a very safe way to travel, with thousands of flights taking off and landing safely every day around the world. However, when things go wrong, the results can be catastrophic.

On 5 July 1970, Air Canada Flight 621, a Douglas DC-8, took off from Montreal–Dorval International Airport in Montreal, Quebec, on a regularly scheduled flight to Los Angeles, with a stop-over at Toronto International Airport, in the Malton area of Mississauga, Ontario. At the controls were Captain Peter Cameron Hamilton and First Officer Donald Rowland, with Flight Engineer, Harry Gordon Hill.

All had been routine and normal on the flight until the aircraft attempted to land at Toronto, when the first officer improperly deployed engine spoilers (they assist the pilots with reducing speed and lift), caused the DC-8 to hit the runway too hard, causing the tail to strike the ground and knocking engine #4 and its pylon off the wing.

While this damage was significant, it was not catastrophic. According to retired RCAF fighter pilot and aviation commentator, John “Jock” Williams, if the aircraft has stayed on the ground, Captain Hamilton would still have been able to bring it to a safe stop.

However, not realizing the damage that had been done to his aircraft, Captain Hamilton elected to do a “go around,” a routine procedure that pilots do if they feel they can’t land safely. This usually allows the pilots to re-adjust and better position the aircraft for a safe landing.

Tragically, the stricken aircraft was doomed from that moment on. The outboard section of the starboard (right) wing exploded, above where engine #4 had been, two and a half minutes after the initial impact. That was quickly followed by another explosion that tore engine #3 and its pylon off, and then a third explosion that tore off most of the starboard wing.

Captain Hamilton could no longer control his aircraft by this point, sending it into a violent nose. It crashed into a farm field in what was then Toronto Gore Township, approximately 10 miles north of the airport, next to what is now known as 72 Degrey Drive, at the intersection of Compassion Crescent, in Brampton. 

The subsequent investigation determined that the DC-8 hit the ground at approximately 220 knots, or 250 mph. All one hundred passengers and the nine crew members on board were killed. At the time, it was the second-deadliest aviation accident in Canadian history.

Wreckage, including body parts and passenger luggage, were scattered over an approximately 100 yard area. The aircraft plowed a ten foot trench, stopping approximately 200 feet from a farmhouse owned by the Burgsma family.

Burial of 52 of the passengers, all but three of whom were identified, took place at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. The following May, a stone monument and obelisk was placed in the cemetery, listing the names of all 109 passenger and crew who perished in the crash. Air Canada added their own monument in 1979.

A report published on 29 January 1971, written by the board of inquiry assigned to investigate the crash, determined the cause was pilot error.

It was after area resident Paul Cardin discovered aircraft wreckage and human bones from the crash in June 2002, wreckage and bones missed in the search in 1970, that other residents of the area mounted a campaign to have the crash site officially recognized and preserved as an official cemetery, given that other unrecovered human remains may still be buried in the soil. Despite significant development of the area, the crash site was still vacant land.

On 7 July 2013, 43 years and 2 days after the crash, a memorial was officially opened at the site, which is now a park named Purple Lilac Park.

The memorial garden park is approximately a third of a hectare in size, featuring lilac bushes, trees and granite markers along the path the aircraft plowed when it hit the ground. The centrepiece of the monument features 109 markers of polished white granite, arranged in a random configuration, within a bed of black granite paving stones. A polished black granite plaque mounted on a large, pink granite boulder, lists the names of all the passengers and crew who died that long-ago summer day.

From the black granite plaque:

“In memory of the passengers and crew of Flight 621 who lost their lives in this field on July 5, 1970.


Céline Fradette ​Adam
Pierre J. Adam
Gaétan Beaudin
Helene Bélanger
Jacques Bélanger
Jean Bélanger
Roland Bélanger
Rosanne Bélanger
Helen Benson
Leonard Benson
Mary Benson
Richard Benson
Lynn Ann Boosamra
Guy Boulanger
Dollie Bradshaw
Jeannine Chapdelaine
Joanne Chapdelaine
Mario Chapdelaine
Jean Maurice Charest
Devona Olivia Clarke
Francine Côté
Brigitte Rodrigue Des Marais
Gabriel Des Marais
Alice Dicaire
Gilles Dicaire
Linda Dicaire
Luc Dicaire
Marc Dicaire
Jacqueline Doré
Lewella Frances Earle
Linda Margaret Earle
Francesco Filippone
Linda Filippone
Marie Filippone
King Bun (Bernard) Gee
Madeleine Grenier

Diana Cicely Growse
Jane Isobel Growse
Roger Henry Growse
Karen E. Hamilton
R​onald Alvin Herrmann
Claude K. Holiday
Irene Marguerite Houston
Wesley Graham Houston
Vagn Aage Jakobsen
Gilles Labonté
Marie-Rose Desjardins Leclaire
Oscar Leclaire
Henri W. Leduc
Claudette Lepage
Claire Gagnon-Mailhiot
Gerald Bernard Mailhiot
Gustav A. Maitz
Karolina Fiedler Maitz
Winnie G. McKettrick
J. W. (Jack) McTague
Carla Medizza
Dolly Mohammed
Antonio C Molino
Michel Molino
Frederick Thompson Moore
Andrée Partridge
Carnis Ann Partridge
Cyril Wayne Partridge
Kenneth William Phillips
Rita Gagné-Poirier
Gilles Raymond
Martial Raymond
Aline Legault Robert
Georges Étienne Robert
Lionel Robidoux
Marci Silverberg
Merle Silverberg
Steven Phillip Silverberg
Istvan Simon
Mark Woodrow Simon

Dwight L. Smith
Glenn Thomas Steppings
Blanche St-Laurent
Celia Sultan
Jerald Mark Sultan
Robert Lowell Sultan
Borys Szpakowicz​
Serge A. Szpakowicz
Carmen M. M. Tielens
Frederik A. J. Tielens
Athanasia Tournovits
George Tournovits
Carla Weinberg
Rita Weinberg
​Wendy Weinberg
Jennie Cavell Whittingham
John Reginald Whittingham
Reginald Whittingham
Mary Baker Whybro
Edgar Bradley Witmer
Man Sing Wong
Ngar Quon Wong
Suzie Wong
Dallas James Woodard

Air Canada Crew

Robert J. Cédilot
Peter Cameron Hamilton
H Gordon Hill
Donald Rowland
M. T. Ginette Bertrand
Yolande M. C. Daoust
Suzanne M. Dion
Denise Goulet
Gundi Wieczorek”

Sources: Air Canada Flight 621 – Wikipedia, City of Brampton | Protocol Office | 50th Anniversary Air Canada Flight 621 Crash.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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