This presentation was held at the Top Generation Club, 7 January.
VIDEO: CTV Ottawa
OTTAWA — 70 years after a plane crash on the outskirts of Ottawa, a local resident is sharing the story of how his family tried to help a powerful U.S. Ambassador.
On March 28th, 1950, a plane carrying U.S. Ambassador to Canada Laurence Steinhardt went down in a farmer’s field in Ramsayville, about 13 kilometres southeast of Ottawa. The crash was two farms down from Mark Scharfe’s family homestead.
“My dad and his dad were one of the first people on the scene,” says Scharfe.
Five people died in the crash, including Ambassador Steinhardt. There was a survivor, Master Sgt. Gwynne Long, who jumped out of the plane with a parachute while it was going down. He told investigators at the time that the an engine caught fire shortly after takeoff at the Rockcliffe airport.
“My dad told me when they got there, they pulled the ambassador out of the tail of the plane,” recalls Scharfe. “He was wearing his parachute, but he was smouldering.”
Scharfe’s father Russell and his grandfather Clem were commissioned by the military to help recover the bodies. They were loaded onto a sleigh the family owned and pulled by horses out of the field. Scharfe says the whole episode was recorded by the military.
“It’s kind of something that you don’t see very often (from that time),” he says.
That footage was shown Tuesday at Top Generation Centre off Ramsayville Rd., not far from where the plane crashed 70 years ago. In attendance to watch the video was Steinhardt’s granddaughter Laurene Ann Sherlock.
“There are certain images in that film that strike a very personal note,” says Sherlock.
“There’s an image of my grandfather’s briefcase, which was returned to our family, and we just disposed of it two years ago.”
According to his granddaughter, Steinhardt was a personal supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt to become U.S. President. FDR appointed him to his first Ambassadorial post in 1933 and he spent 17 years in the diplomatic service.
“He had six posts and that was considered very unusual,” Sherlock says. “His highlight post was serving as United States Ambassador to Moscow in 1939 until the end of ’41, and we all know what was going on then.”
“There was a good chance he was talking Stalin, talking to Hitler, talking to Roosevelt,” comments Scharfe. “We had never heard of the man and he perished here in south Ottawa.”
Sherlock and Scharfe have been in contact for about five years before she was finally ready to make the trip north.
“There are still people alive…who were eyewitnesses,” Sherlock says. “They’re in their nineties now and this opportunity to hear them speak and to listen to their stories will never come again.”
“(I) had to overcome some personal concerns, but there was a far greater need to come up here and thank some people,” she adds.