Finding closure through a historic plane crash site

A historic plane crash site in northern Ontario is bringing closure for the family of one of the pilots who was killed in the tragedy more than 60 years ago.

Backroads Bill Steer researched crash and found family of deceased pilot

In 1959, a fighter jet collided with a long range bomber north of Hearst. Backroads Bill Steer recently went to the crash site and eventually found the family of one of the deceased pilots. (Submitted by Bill Steer)

A historic plane crash site in northern Ontario is bringing closure for the family of one of the pilots who was killed in the tragedy more than 60 years ago.

Backroads Bill Steer, who is the founder of the Canadian Ecology Centre near Mattawa, first heard about the crash a few years ago. It involved two American military plans that collided mid-air during military exercises.

Two people survived, but three people died, including the pilot of the fighter jet.

Steer searched for more information but couldn't find much.

Steer says when he got to the site, part of the plane was still intact. (Submitted by Bill Steer)

"But it still kind of intrigued me for some reason," he said. "Something went tragically wrong, December 17, 1959, in the airspace northwest of Hearst. It was a training session. I think when you look at the report … accidents are always a series of mistakes. The fighter jet peeled off and hit one of the bombers."

During the spring, Steer decided to visit the site, which he says is spread out throughout the Boreal forest, but still contains intact wings from one of the planes.

"I got some sort of attachment, I felt the spirit of Gaylord Treu," he said. 

"All of a sudden, I thought this story was going to take another turn, and it did."

Gaylord Treu was the pilot who was killed while flying that fighter jet.

Steer started doing more research on the Treu family but couldn't find much information. Ready to give up, Steer went on LinkedIn to see what he could find. Immediately, he found the profile of Denny Treu.

"He was two years old at the time. His father was 27 years of age when he crashed," he said.

Streer says when he looked at the picture of Gaylord Treu and Denny Treu side by side, he knew the two were related. (Submitted by Bill Steer)

He compared the image of Denny to Gaylord and said "they look the same."

Denny Treu admits getting the call from Steer was "a little out of the blue."

"I guess I was a little surprised that it was coming up after all these years," he said. "But glad to always find out more about my dad."

The more Steer talked, the more Treu realized how much he wanted to be a part of the project "to tell the story" of his dad.

'Extra closure'

"My mom was always very good about telling me about dad and all the things he accomplished," he said.

His mother has shared with him what she knows about the crash and he's read the accident report.

"It was just one of those coincidences that everything went wrong that day," he said.

"Growing up without him has always been an issue. I wish that hadn't happened but it was always a comfort knowing he was such a great guy."

Treu says he hasn't been to the crash site, but says he plans to someday visit.

"I think that hopefully will give me a bit of extra closure," he said.

Bill Steer, a.k.a.Backroads Bill takes us along in the search for an American military plane crash site in northern Ontario from 1959... and his search for the son of the pilot who was killed. 9:44


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