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RAAF PBY-5A Catalina, A24-69, (USN 34056) of 11 Squadron RAAF (Rathmines) caught fire and was totally destroyed while it was moored at East Arm near Darwin in the Northern Territory at 2330 hours on 14 December 1945. The aircraft was written off. The crew at the time was:-

F/Lt M. C. Vicar?, Pilot
F/O Eric Marsh, 2nd Pilot (412820)
F/Lt Serpell, Navigator
F/Sgt Barnbaurn (possibly Samuel Barnbaum (434572))
Sgt Byron Caskey Pierson, Fitter 11A, (47822)
Sgt Woodward
Sgt West

Two crew members were detailed to sleep on the aircraft overnight. They were Flying Officer Eric Marsh, and Sgt Byron Pierson. F/O Marsh had been asleep on the top of the hull above the navigator's compartment. He woke up and moved to the 2nd Pilot's hatch where he noticed what he thought was smoke coming from the Engineer's compartment. Sgt Pierson who was on the deck above the Navigator's compartment, noticed the smoke at the same time.

Sgt Pierson entered the Engineer's hatch, and gave the warning of a fire. F/O Marsh grabbed the fire extinguisher from No. 4 bulkhead and handed it to Sgt Pierson who directed the CO2 at the seat of the fire. F/O Marsh then went to find another extinguisher. They were unable to extinguish the fire. Sgt Pierson believed that the rear petrol gauges must have been alight. Being almost overcome by smoke and gas, Sgt Pierson gave the warning to abandon the aircraft. A dinghy was thrown overboard and both crew members jumped into the water.

With some difficulty they caught the attention of the crash boat. By the time the crash boat picked them up, the fire had obtained a hold on the mainplane and the fabric was burning furiously.

A work boat patrolled the burning wreckage until it was totally burnt out, and any danger to other aircraft had passed.

Sgt Pierson believes an electrical fault in the Engineer's panel may have started the initial small fire which spread to the petrol gauges.

This aircraft had originally been delivered to the RAAF in December 1943. The Catalina was on transport duties at the time and was due to leave for Cairns at first light the next morning.

This aircraft was also involved in an earlier accident on 21 February 1944 when it collided with a seaplane tender during fuelling operations at an unknown location (can anyone confirm the location please?). The pilot on that occasion was Flying Officer Herbert Alan Tregaskis (409009).


A Catalina at Mackay Airport - 1961


A Catalina at Mackay airport - 1961


Catalina at Caboolture Air Show 15 May 2004


Catalina at Caboolture Air Show 15 May 2004


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


I need your help


 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 21 March 2000

This page last updated 31 August 2015