Memory remains of Flight 46

By Daniel Dunkle | Jun 06, 2019

I had to write my column about the crash of Downeast Airlines Flight 46 on a tight deadline last week to have it ready in time for the 40th anniversary.

The twin-engine De Havilland Otter turbo jet plane crashed in Owls Head May 30, 1979, killing 17.

After writing that column, I had a chance to interview John McCafferty, who was the only survivor of the crash. He was 16 at the time, is now 56 and lives in Searsmont.

Most of the story is exactly the same as it was when I interviewed him in 2004 for the 25th anniversary of the crash, but to see the new interview, check out the video at Knox.VillagesSoup.com or go to the Village Soup Facebook page and click on videos.

I did find it interesting that even 40 years later, McCafferty said rarely a week goes by that he does not have a nightmare about the crash, and not a day goes by that he does not think about it.

The anniversary also triggered some reader response.

I had a nice visit from Donna Godfrey of Thomaston, whose husband, Charlie Godfrey, was supposed to be on Flight 46 that night. Donna was 30 at the time, with a 10-year-old daughter. Charlie was working for National Sea Products and traveling a lot on business. He had flown out of Knox County Regional Airport to go to Chicago.

Donna said she believes things come in threes, and there had been a crash at O'Hare in Chicago right before that (American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979) and another publicized crash. When the plane he was on took off, it circled around and came right back in for a landing because the door was not shut properly, and she said she figured that made three.

At the end of his trip, Donna's husband was flying back to Boston and was told, she said, there were three seats left on Flight 46, if he could make it on time.

Fortunately for him, he didn't make it on time. Coming into Boston, bad weather in the form of rain, thunder and lightning delayed the plane's landing and while it was circling, he missed that flight.

McCafferty recalled that it was raining that night as he crossed the tarmac in Boston to board Flight 46. He had a premonition that it was going to crash and paused in the line, thinking about not taking the flight. He was nudged to keep moving onto the plane by a passenger behind him. The other passengers were annoyed at any delay, since they were getting wet standing out there in the rain.

Donna woke up the next morning to the sound of dogs howling. She said to herself, "Oh my gosh, someone died!" She said she grew up with the belief that the sound of dogs howling is associated with death.

Her husband was due back that day, but she was not able to reach him by calling his hotel room, and once she heard about the crash, she and other family members began to worry.

Charlie's mother, Ethel Godfrey, the South Thomaston town clerk, was really worrying, so much so that she didn't dare call Donna to find out.

Meanwhile, Charlie had decided to rent a car and drive back to Maine. When he got home and heard all that had happened, he went down to see the crash site of the plane he was supposed to have been on.

 

On a lighter 'note'...

This has happened to me several times over my career as a reporter: I drive someplace to cover an event or interview someone, and I've forgotten a notebook. So I end up searching through my car for a piece of paper. On Facebook the other day, I posed the question to my reporter friends: "What's the weirdest thing you have taken notes on when you ran out of notebooks?"

There wasn't an immediate response, and I thought, "Oh no, I'm the only person who does this!" Then the responses started coming in.

Many were things I had used as well: backs of bill envelopes, one's hand, the register from a checkbook, receipts, a pizza plate, napkins and paper towels.

Jenna Lookner, who has worked for The Camden Herald and other publications, had my favorite response: "The back of my dog's rabies vaccine certificate while sitting in my car."

Famed local journalist and columnist Kris Ferrazza said: "Teeny tiny Disney princess notebook (party favor size). Only had 5 sheets of paper in it. Luckily I had two in my purse!"

That reminds me of the time I had to empty my pockets at the metal detector to get into the courthouse and I had some of my son's Legos.

This led to a conversation about covering events in the winter and having your pen and/or camera freeze up.

Longtime arts editor Dagney Ernest wrote (don't try this at home!): "I remember, early in the digital camera days, having the camera freeze up when I was covering the Warren school decommissioning. Some old guy told me to take out the batteries, stick em under me arms for a minute, lick the terminal ends and pop em back in the camera ...  and it worked!"

Former Camden Herald editor Kim "Ameses" Lincoln advised: "If you put the pen tip on your scalp for a minute, it warms back up!" leading to a further conversation of all the little blue dots she probably has on her head.

The supreme compliment for a journalist is to say "She has ink in her blood." For Kim, that may literally be true.

Daniel Dunkle lives in Rockland. He is author of the novel, "The Scrimshaw Worm." Send in your stories, photos and memories via email at: ddunkle@villagesoup.com; or snail mail to: 91 Camden St., Suite 403, Rockland, ME 04841. Vintage Ink columns rely on back issues of The Courier-Gazette for source material. Other sources will be cited specifically.

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