Man seeks stories of 1963 airline tragedy

An Ontario man whose father died in one of Canada's worst airline crashes is hoping to connect the families of the victims, nearly half a century later.

118 people on board TransCanada Airlines Flight 831 died

An Ontario man whose father died in one of Canada's worst airline crashes is hoping to connect the families of the victims, nearly half a century later.

John MacPherson Page, 48, was returning home from a business trip when the plane he was a passenger on crashed outside Montreal, killing all 118 on board.
Bob Page was 16 when his father, John, left on a business trip to the Maritimes, but never made it home.

On Nov. 29, 1963, John MacPherson Page was on board Trans-Canada Airlines Flight 831 bound for Toronto when it crashed just minutes after takeoff from Montreal's Dorval airport, landing in the woods near Ste-Therese de Blainville, Que.

All 118 people on board were killed in what was, at the time, the second-largest loss of life in a single plane crash in the world, and the worst crash in Canadian aviation history.

Contact info

Bob Page hopes to hear from anyone who lost a loved one in the crash, or even from someone who has memories of the tragedy. He can be reached at 519-733-5869.

As the 50th anniversary of the crash approaches, Bob Page, of Kingsville, Ont., wants to honour his father by finding the families left behind, in a project called "Our Search for Memory."

"We want ... to commemorate the people who died," Page told CBC News. "But more importantly maybe, to commemorate the people who struggled afterwards with the losses they had to bear."

Mother widowed with 5 children

For decades, the Page family regarded the crash of Trans-Canada Flight 831 as their own private story.

Dorothy Page raised five children on her own after her husband was killed in one of Canada's worst airline disasters in 1963. ((Submitted photo))
Their 48-year-old father had just received a promotion, becoming the youngest director at the Heinz Company, when he headed out on a cross-country sales trip in November 1963.

His final flight home took off with 106 men and 12 women on board. Most of the passengers were businessmen, many from southern Ontario.

The plane had no flight data recorder so families do not know exactly what brought the aircraft down.

Allan Page was just a baby when the crash happened and has no memory of his father, but remembers the impact the loss had on his family.

"This is in memory of Dad," said Page. "But also in memory to what Mom went through, and what she had to face. Five kids all alone, all of a sudden."

The siblings' memories came flooding back in September 1998, as they watched families mourn the loss of 229 victims of the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia. Bob Page said he saw those families receive counselling services almost immediately, something that never happened after the Trans-Canada Airlines crash.

"You just got on with life," he said.  "I think as I grew up I realized that this crash had had more of an impact on myself and my mother and my family, than we realized."

58 of 118 families contacted

To date, Bob Page has contacted 58 of the 118 families.

"It's been very important for our family, to help us share, to understand our different stories," said Allan Page.

Bob Page said his family now knows its loss was not unique, and they have become good friends with many whose loved ones died alongside their father.

He admits not everyone is willing to dig up old memories.

"[They're] reluctant to go back and experience the hurt and the pain and tragedy of that loss," said Page.