Friday, November 16, 2012

Canadian Book Challenge: Into the Abyss

This is the Fourth book I have read for the Canadian Book Challenge. Into the Abyss by Carol Shaben.

Into the Abyss: How a Deadly Plane Crash Changed the Lives of a Pilot, a Politician, a Criminal and a Cop

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people. Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges. Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly--a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly. Larry Shaben, the author's father and Canada's first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature. After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs--a decision that profoundly impacted the men's survival.

I must say I had to chuckle when I started to read this story (not because the topic us humorous) because it is the story of a plane crash in "Northern Canada" - and it all takes place SOUTH of where I live!

This story actually touches something close to me - one of the people killed in this crash is a native of the community in which I currently live. Grant Notley was an NDP politician who was revered in this community and I actually work in a place named for him!

Since moving to Fairview about ten years ago I have become vaguely familiar with the story of this plane crash and so to read it was very interesting. I knew of all the places being spoken of.

Interestingly enough, although there was plane service to our Northern town in the 1980's there is no such service any longer. The city airport in Edmonton is closed.  Fairview still has an airport - I have been there the summer for drag races with my family - but no commercial flights come here any longer, and I expect it has something to do with this crash.

I really enjoyed this book. One of the things I found fascinating was the impact this crash had on the survivors - particularly Erik Vogel and Paul Archambault. Erik's life was essentially ruined by this crash, and although Paul was hailed as a hero for his actions following the crash and had his criminal charges overturned his life never really changed and ended in a tragic death not many years later.

I wish the author had delved more deeply into the psychological effects on the survivors of the crash. I found it to be a fascinating story on how people react following tradgedy. Although she gave a thorough description of what happened to each of the survivors it is left to the reader to "put it all together" in the end.


Anonymous said...

Just heard a radio documentary/interviews on this a few days ago on CBC. I think it was Tuesday afternoon(?) Sounded like the survivors were extremely fortunate - it could well have been a full fatality crash, though the ultimate tragedy is that the plane should not have ever taken off.

Teena in Toronto said...

I'll have to check this book out ... it sounds good!

I just checked to see where Fairview is ... the furthest north in Alberta I've been was Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray.