The Who2 Blog

The Convent Crash of 1956

May 15 is the anniversary of one of Canada’s worst air crashes, when a convent full of recuperating nuns was blown up by a falling jet fighter.

Just outside of Ottawa, late on a Tuesday night, two CF-100 fighters from the Royal Canadian Air Force were sent to intercept an unidentified plane that had been spotted on radar. The plane turned out to be a southbound transport plane ahead of schedule. One of the jet fighters returned to base, but the other one, with pilots William Schmidt and Kenneth Thomas, continued flying.

For reasons that will never be known, they stopped flying at elevation 33,000 feet and began exploding at elevation zero feet, having pounded smack into a rest home belonging to the Grey Nuns of the Cross.

The only building in a giant open field, it was only a few years old and had cost a million dollars to build. It had a great view of the Ottawa River, which the fighter jet might have crashed into if it hadn’t hit the convent.

Inside the resort were about 35 people, most of whom were either elderly or recuperating from medical procedures. The jet and its 3 tons of fuel exploded on impact and burned the place up in a ball of flames.

Eleven nuns died, a priest who’d been a navy chaplain died, a maid died and the two fighter pilots died.

Now a memorial marks the spot:

A trailer for a documentary on the crash offers a taste.

An account from a 1956 issue of Pennsylvania’s Chester Times has more details.

More on the crash can be found here, and in this story about the 50th anniversary.

(Main photo from the City of Ottawa.)

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