Nova Scotia

Air Canada Flight 624: Steve Earle carried senior Ruth Macumber from crash

A tearful Catherine Ouellet says she can't thank enough the man she calls a hero after he carried her 80-year-old aunt away from the wreckage of Air Canada Flight 624 after it crashed just after midnight Sunday.

'It's not heroism, it's being a human being,' Earle says

'It's not heroism, it's being a human being'

The National

6 years ago
Catherine Ouellet says thank you to Steve Earle, who carried her 80-year-old aunt away from the wreckage of Air Canada Flight 624 after it crashed in Halifax 2:19

A tearful Catherine Ouellet says she can't thank enough the man she calls a hero after he carried her 80-year-old aunt away from the wreckage of Air Canada Flight 624 after it crashed just after midnight Sunday.

Steve Earle reluctantly came forward Tuesday morning after his friends saw that Ouellet was using CBC to try to find him, following the crash on a runway at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. The plane slammed to the ground while trying to land in a snowstorm.

In the minutes after the crash, Ruth Macumber struggled to get down the emergency exit and away from the plane. She uses a walker, and without it found it hard to walk.

Earle, who was sitting in the same row as Macumber and Ouellet, stepped up to help.

"It's not heroism, it's being human," Earle said. "I just happened to be the guy that was there. I just happened to be the guy sitting in that row. That's all."

Macumber is the only person from the flight who is still in hospital. She has a fractured bone near her shoulder.
Catherine Ouellet greets Steve Earle Tuesday morning. Earle carried Ouellet's 80-year-old aunt away from a crashed Air Canada jet at the Halifax airport. (CBC)

Once outside the crashed plane, passengers found themselves in a snowstorm with strong wind gusts. Macumber struggled to catch her breath.

"Her niece was holding her by the arm and trying to get her to move along," Earle said. "I came down after them and I took her by the other arm and it really wasn't working. She didn't have enough in her legs to keep going."

With fuel everywhere, many passengers worried there would be a fire, and they knew they had to get away from the plane fast. Macumber insisted she could go no further. 

That's when he picked her up. First by her waist, but then he put her over his shoulder.

"I needed to get out of there too, and the quickest way to do it was to carry her," he said.

"The alternative was to run. But her niece wasn't going to leave her either. She's not a big lady. I just, I grabbed her and off we went to get out of there." 
This photo of Ruth Macumber was taken at the Toronto airport, right before she boarded Air Canada Flight 624.

Earle said he couldn't leave Macumber and her niece behind. 

"I don't think hero is ... I think human is a better term. That's all. If it wasn't me, it probably would've been the next guy."

But Ouellet disagrees, and she was overjoyed to reconnect with Earle Tuesday morning. 

"Everyone else was just concerned about running and getting off that plane," said a tearful Ouellet, as she hugged him Tuesday. "You just stuck there and helped her get over that ledge and down that slide."

Ouellet was the first passenger Earle has seen since the crash. Both said they haven't looked at any news coverage of what they went through.

"Mentally, it's challenging," said Earle. "It's like instant replay all the time. It's hard to get it stopped. Today is better than yesterday and yesterday is better than the day before that."

Earle went to visit Macumber in the hospital after meeting with Ouellet.

It's expected Macumber will be in the hospital for some time as her arm was fractured near the shoulder, in an area that cannot be cast.

Air Canada has offered to pay all her medical bills and support for when she is released.


Carolyn Ray


Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at


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