Mount Benson (British Columbia)
Mt. Benson viewed from the east at Duke Point
|Elevation||1,023 m (3,356 ft) |
|Prominence||668 m (2,192 ft) |
|Parent range||Vancouver Island Ranges|
|Topo map||NTS 92F/01|
Mount Benson is a mountain located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia located 9 km (5.6 mi) west of Nanaimo. There was road access to the peak, and it is popular with local hikers. It has good views of the Strait of Georgia and the mainland coast of British Columbia.
Formerly known as Wake-siah, this hill was named in 1859 by Captain Richards, RN, after his friend Alfred Robson Benson, MD, a physician from Whitby (Yorkshire), who was in the Hudson's Bay Company service 1857-62.:48
Most of the summit is flat with several small lakes, surrounded by clearcuts.
On October 17, 1951, 20 passengers and 3 crew members died in which at the time was considered to be the worst aviation accident in British Columbian history when a Canso-A (CF-FOQ) that was operating as Queen Charlotte Airlines Flight 102-17 and was en route from Kitimat to Vancouver crashed into Mount Benson at the 490 m (1,610 ft) level at 6:55 P.M. PDT.
President of the Vancouver chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society Jerry Vernon says the plane took off three hours late at 3 P.M. while it ran into darkness and poor weather conditions. He says the pilot should have landed somewhere along the way earlier before darkness set in.
"The pilot was not qualified to fly instrument after dark and the airplane itself had not been returned to Canada very long, it was not certified (to fly in the dark) either," said Vernon.
Vernon says the events of what led to the plane going down are detailed by author Jim Spilsbury in the book Accidental Airline. Spilsbury owned Queen Charlotte Airlines at the time.
"Apparently he (the pilot) called the tower and said he was 20 miles off of Vancouver, and he was actually more like 40 miles, so he'd been blown off course, it was late and he was in the dark," said Vernon. "He didn't exactly know where he was I guess. They think he was doing a turn to the west to line up with the Vancouver runway and he flew into the mountain because he didn't realize he was over Nanaimo and not over the water."
Vernon says apparently the plane clipped a snag a couple hundred feet away prior to going down. A newspaper report at the time stated that the plane hit a mountainside cliff, burst into flames, then fell 500 feet to a ledge.
Vernon says another problem with the doomed flight was that the co-pilot was not a trained commercial pilot, but in fact a baggage handler.
"I would have thought flying the Canso they would have a second qualified pilot on board...the captain was all on his own as far as making decisions or finding out where he was."
Visible remnants from the wreckage remained on the slopes for many years afterwards, covering about 50 metres on Mt. Benson. As of 2018, hundreds of pieces of wreckage from the plane remain on the mountain, accessible via an unmarked trail.:26
Mount Benson Regional Park
In July 2008 the Mount Benson Regional Park, comprising 212 ha (520 acres) on the upper north east slope of Mount Benson was established on land acquired in 2005 by the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust. There is no road access to the park itself. Only a portion of the mountain is within the park not including the twin summits. The park area is the head waters of the Millstone River and, to the east, the Chase River.
- "Mount Benson". Bivouac.com. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
- Walbran, Captain John T. (1971), British Columbia Place Names, Their Origin and History (Facsimile reprint of 1909 ed.), Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, ISBN 0-88894-143-9
- ASN Aircraft accident Consolidated Casno A CF-FOQ Mt. Benson, BC
- HB Lanarc Consultants Ltd (2009), Mount Benson Regional Park 2010-2020 Management Plan (PDF)