Still the Second Worst Air Disaster in Australia

10 Worst Aircraft Crashes in Australia

The following photos were supplied to me by Cheryl Cooper.
They were taken by Cheryl's father.



At about 9.20 am on 19 December 1943, a C-47 Dakota, VH-CHR, #43-30742, of the 22nd Troop Carrier Squadron of the 374th Troop Carrier Group disintegrated in the air about 30 miles north of Rockhampton near Rossmoya Road at Canal Creek via Yaamba. It had earlier taken off from Garbutt Airfield in Townsville at 7.10K hours enroute to Archerfield airfield in Brisbane via Rockhampton. 

At 0945K hours the Volunteer Air Observer Corps (VAOC) reported to No. 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters in Townsville that an aircraft had crashed 10 miles (actually 30 miles) north west of Rockhampton. The Commanding Officer of No. 21 Operational Base Unit at Rockhampton travelled to the crash site and assisted to remove the bodies and guard the site.

Weather conditions south of Townsville ere reported as poor, but weather in the Rockhampton area was reported as "Fair" with a ceiling of 1,000 feet, visibility of six miles with only a light north easterly wind.

All 31 personnel on board were killed. The names of some of the passengers and the crew are as follows:-

I'd welcome any assistance to get the following list correct.

CREW (from 22nd TC Squadron of the 374th TC Group.) SERVICE NO. UNIT
2nd Lt. William Randell Crecelius (Pilot) 0-888625 Crecelius became a member of the 374th TCG, 22nd TCS on 20 April 1943, and was awarded the DFC about that time. He received his training at Curtis Field and Ellington Field, TX.
2nd. Lt. John R. Powell (co-pilot) 0-810036  
T/Sgt. John L. Shupe (Engineer) 13035323  
Sgt. Robert S. Fazio (Radio Operator) 12192190  


Capt. Orlen N. Loverin, pilot 0-730936 499th Bomb Squadron, 345th Bomb Group, entered the service in California. Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. Awards - Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He was a Flight Crew Member of the aircraft “Doodle”. 
1st/Lt. George K. Snyder, navigator 0-443462 499th Bomb Squadron, 345th Bomb Group. He was a Flight Crew Member of the aircraft “Doodle”
2nd/Lt. William B. Graham, co-pilot 0-80087 499th Bomb Squadron, 345th Bomb Group. He was a Flight Crew Member of the aircraft “Doodle”
Technical Sergeant Carlos M. Bane 33181909 5th Airways and Communication Service Squadron
Capt. Robert J. Simons 50563  
Major Hoyt A. Ross 0-350627  
Lieutenant Rebecca Williams N-721585 US Army Nurse
Gunner's Mate 3rd Class Jack Hayman Staggs  03825977 US Navy
CGM Carline  606-97-59 US Navy
Lt. Wm. Samuelson 0-182874 US Navy
Lieutenant Thomas Smith  W 2107140 US Army Nurse
Lieutenant Ernestine Korranda N 547331 US Army Nurse
Chief Warrant Officer Herbert R. Johnson W 2114898 US Infantry, U.S. Army. Entered the Service from New York. Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. 
Lt. Harry Gillies 0-2035039  
Pte Herbert J. Mathias 35255439  
Sgt Charles Dolan 32337024  
Harold George Dick   Australian War Correspondent
William Bramwell Tibbs BEM Deputy Commissioner B217 attached Australian Military Forces, Salvation Army Salvation Army Officer/Chaplain. 34 yrs old, Married of Eastwood, NSW. Plot A, Row B, Grave 3, Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Acting Cpl. William Barry Sleep NX 150010 1 Australian L of C Provost Company. 21 yrs old, storeman of New St., Wavell Heights, Brisbane. Plot A, Row B, Grave 6, Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Cpl. Thomas William Shard Q 148539 1 Australian L of C Provost Company. 25 yrs old, married of Fassifern Valley, via Kalbar, QLD. Plot A, Row B, Grave 4, Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Pte Benjamin Rasmussen Q 271392 1 Australian L of C Provost Company. Married, 32 yrs old, married, of 28 Chubb St., One Mile, Merrick, Queensland. Plot A, Row B, Grave 9 Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Capt. John Hugho Weir  NX 333 HQ 11 Infantry Brigade. 31 yrs old, married, of "Beverley Mansions", 21 Hotham St., East Melbourne, VIC. Plot A, Row B, Grave 8 Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Capt. Alexander William Robert Geddes SX 4886 RAA HQ 9 DIV, 25 yrs old, of 73 Prince St, Waratah, via Newcastle, NSW. Plot A, Row B, Grave 7, Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Lt. Nigel James Bruce MacDonald Representative 62/333 attd., Australian Commonwealth Military Forces YMCA Welfare Officer, 42 yrs old, Married, of Neutral Bay, Sydney, NSW. Plot A, Row B, Grave 12, Rockhampton War Cemetery.
LAC Donald Cantrol Cameron 426040 36 Squadron RAAF, 21 yrs old, Jackeroo and Overseer of Auvern, Texas, Inglewood Rd, Texas, QLD. Grave A.B.11 Rockhampton War Cemetery
LAC Raymond Kingsley Oster 115325 6 Transport and Movement Office, Townsville (RAAF). 19 yrs old carpenter of 89 Magill Rd., Stepney, South Australia. Plot A, Row B, Grave 10 Rockhampton War Cemetery.
Capt. Crawford Derek Mollison VX 912 2/12 Australian Field Regiment RAA. 42 yrs old, married, of 35 Marne St., South Yarra, Melbourne, VIC. Plot A, Row B, Grave 5 Rockhampton War Cemetery.


The Personnel in the cream table cells above, were buried at Rockhampton Cemetery. War Correspondent Harold Dick was initially scheduled to be buried in Rockhampton, but was eventually buried in Sydney.

Sgt. Robert S. Fazio was a much beloved son, who was only 20 years old when he died.  His mother was overcome by grief, and spent years deeply depressed with medical implications for her heart.  According to a letter from the U.S. War Department, dated 20 February, 1947, Sgt. Fazio's body was originally buried in "a temporary cemetery established near the place where he met his death."  Virginia Fazio Seuffert's family has a letter from the Quartermaster General, dated 30 November, 1945, indicating that the remains of American servicemen were being re-interpret in military cemeteries at that time, where they could be better cared for. His remains were moved to the U. S. Air Forces Cemetery, at Ipswich, Grave 549, west of Brisbane.  

According to an article in Yonkers, New York daily newspaper, The Herald Statesmen, dated  11 February, 1948, Sgt. Fazio's body was shipped back to the United States aboard the United States Army Transport Cardinal O'Connell.  On 15 March 1948, his remains were received by William F. Braddin, a funeral director in Yonkers, New York.  The following day, they were interred in St. Mary's Cemetery in Yonkers.  The government paid for the cost of transporting the remains of war dead back to the United States.  The bill for the local funeral service was $75.

After the death of Virginia Fazio Seuffert's uncle, Francis Fazio, she saw the suitcase that had been returned to her family by the War Department.  Sgt. Fazio's wallet was returned along with the rest of his effects. Virginia remembers it was a very sad sight as the plastic compartments where photos were kept had melted in the heat of the crash. Virginia believes her brother, Robert S. Fazio (named for his uncle), now has the suitcase.

Cheryl Cooper's father, Frank Rumpf, witnessed the crash. He worked as a stockman for "Jack" Gayle on Canal Creek property at the time of the crash. As he recalls there had been some overnight showers and the ground slightly moist but was overcast with some light showers at the time of the crash and visibility was fair. Frank Rumpf along with Mr & Mrs Jack Gale, Ted Dendle and Colin Clifford witnessed the crash. One of the witnesses said:-

We saw the plane circling around and then it just blew up in the air. There was a real ball of flame.  We were about 500 metres away and were shocked when we got to the scene. It had broken into three main parts which were spread  over about a kilometre .

Mr and Mrs Gale and Ted Dendle are now deceased. They saw the plane circle around over a fairly bare, flat piece of ground. It seemed to be trying to land. They realised something must have been amiss and then it just blew apart in mid-air. Frank thinks it was at about a height of 500 - 600 feet when it exploded. Frank said they all stood horrified as parts of the plane were blown through the air and crashed into the ground about a kilometre from the homestead. 

One source mentioned that one person may have attempted to bale out of the aircraft. Perhaps this was in relation to the body of the only female passenger not initially being found. The body was located about 48 hours later a few hundred metres from the main crash location. It is likely that she was sucked out of the fuselage when the wing broke away from the aircraft.

They sped to the site in the station vehicle and then they realised what a terrible disaster they had witnessed. There were deep indentations in the ground and debris strewn everywhere. 

Paul Van Valkenburg sent me the following account of the crash from the book "Warpath Across the Pacific", the unit history of the 345th Bomb Group.

Three Sydney-bound officers on the crew of "Doodle" (a
345th Bomb Group aircraft) were lost on the 19th when the C-47 they were riding in, crashed during bad weather. The plane had taken off from Townsville, apparently enroute Rockhampton, when it spun out of the overcast with an engine on fire. It exploded before hitting the ground, killing all 31 on board. The 499th (squad) lost Capt. Orlen Loverin, who was considered by many to be the unit's most capable pilot.  The Squadron Navigator, 1/Lt. George K. Snyder, was rumoured to have been planning marriage when he reached Sydney. 2/Lt. William B. Graham was the other fatality.

When American military authorities reached the scene, they found the bodies had been looted; empty wallets were strewn nearby. Since the airmen often carried a hundred Australian Pounds or more on trips to Sydney, someone had acquired a small fortune.

I believe that the information regarding looting in the last paragraph above is not correct. In a featured article in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin of 24 April 1998 concerning the Canal Creek crash of 19 December 1943, Robert Piper  (RAAF retired) of Canberra is quoted as saying, "I've had 25 years experience in crash investigations both here and in New Guinea. When an aircraft blows up and plummets down, the uniforms of those on board, particularly summer weight, are torn off and I'll bet anything in the wallet goes in all directions." Robert Piper went on to suggest that the second hand information about looting should be taken with a grain of salt.

Once US officials arrived on site they placed a heavy guard on the crash site. The Queensland Police were even refused entry to the site.

The first commemoration service to remember this crash was held at 10.00 am at the site of the crash on Canal Creek Station on Saturday 6 December 2003, approximately 60 years after the tragic event. Approximately 55 people attended the service which was organised by the Capricorn Coast Historical Society Association. Mary O'Brien from the Association has carried out extensive research on this crash.

The Service was led by Mr Graham Ivers from the Salvation Army. Mr Bill Ludwig, Mayor of the Livingstone Shire Council and members of the Yeppoon area Returned Serviceman’s League also attended the service. 85 year old US WW2 Veteran, Mr Jack Fleming was the US Flag bearer for the service.

Col Benson was Master of Ceremonies for this event which commemorated Australia's second worst air disaster. Col was previously responsible for ensuring that Australia’s worst air disaster has been permanently commemorated. On 14 June 1943, USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress, “Miss Every Morning Fix It” crashed at Bakers Creek near Mackay, Queensland. Col and his band of helpers had a permanent memorial erected at Baker's Creek.

A special Guest of Honour at the service was Frank Rumpf, who still has the photographs that  he took of the wreckage. Frank Rumpf was able to share his memories of the crash with Mrs. Edith Styles, the sister of Mr William Tibbs, an Australian Salvation Army Chaplin killed in the crash. Edith was one of 14 family members who attended the service. Many family members of some of the other Australians killed in the crash were able to attend the service.

Another attendee at the Ceremony was Peter Murray from Townsville who is organising a memorial to be erected in the Townsville area to commemorate the tragic loss of 27 American lives in the crash of another C-47 Dakota into Cleveland Bay off Townsville on 7 August 1943. This is currently Australia's fifth worst air disaster.

After the service concluded, the group walked around the crash site and inspected some of the items of wreckage that are still visible today. There is still an identifiable depression in the ground at the point of impact. It has diminished in depth with the passing of time. This was followed by a morning tea held under the shady tree along the the bank of Canal Creek. 

Canal Creek Station is now owned by Rodney and June Jacobsen. Approximately 20 years ago (about 1983), Rodney and his mates went to the property to shoot pigs. He remembers that they rode their motor bikes directly into the fuselage of the aircraft to shelter from the rain. When Rodney bought the property in 1992, the main parts of wreckage had been removed from the property. There were then still many small pieces of wreckage scattered around the crash site but Rodney had to gather many of them up as the cattle had taken a liking to trying to eat them.



Subject:   WWII - Aus - New Guinea
Date:           Sat, 6 Feb 1999 21:57:01 -0600

I am writing to see if you might help me with my research concerning my uncle (Lt. William Randell Crecelius) who was killed in a plane crash in Australia (near Rockhampton) on December 19, 1943. He was a part of the 22nd Troop Carrier Sqdn, 374th Transport Group and served in New Guinea and Australia from early '43 until his death in December.

I have received many related documents and other help from Veterans who were in the same area and from military museums and other historical agencies. I am writing to see if you have any pictures, video, movies or other information concerning the New Guinea and Australia area during WWII. Other topics of interest concerning videos or pictures are: C-47 Transport planes, Sgt Pilots, Troop Carriers, WWII Pilot training and New Guinea. I would sincerely appreciate any suggestions you might have concerning where I might get some help in finding this information.

Thanks for your consideration of this request. I am doing my best to compile an accurate record of my uncle's activities but I need all the help I can get. Our family will always be grateful.


Steve McDevitt

3815 Wellington Ct.
Owensboro, KY 42303




Subject:   Re: WWII - Aus - New Guinea
Date:           Sun, 7 Feb 1999 13:52:18 -0600

Yes, this is the plane my uncle was piloting on 12/19/43. I have been doing some extensive research and have the names of the 3 that are mentioned in the web note - Loeverin, Snyder & Graham, plus the rest of the passengers and crew.

My information is that the crash was 30 miles north of Rockhampton at Rossmoya Rd, Canal Creek area. It was on route to Rockhampton but I did not know about the Archer destination until I received some additional information from the U.S. Archives that had the destination for most of the passengers listed as "Arc" (probably Archerfield airfield in Brisbane), one was listed as "Rky" and the other listed as "Adelaide".

Hugh MacMaster sent me an article written on the crash, partly based on information I supplied to him, dated 4/25/98 and published in THE ROCKHAMPTON MORNING BULLETIN.

Others whom I have communicated with concerning this research include:

Bob Piper, Higgins ACT.
Dr. Lorna McDonald - Rockhampton & District Historical
Bob Kelly, Buderim QLD
G.K. Joyce, Rockhampton Sub-branch of RSL.

Let me know if you have any additional information concerning this crash.

Thanks for your help.......


Steve McDevitt



Subject:    22nd TCS - WWII
Date:             Sun, 7 Feb 1999 14:13:59 -0600

I have been doing some extensive research about my uncle, Lt. William Randell Crecelius, who served with the 22nd TCS in New Guinea and Aus from April '43 until his death on 12/19/43. His plane crashed while piloting a flight from Townsville to Rockhampton. I have a lot of names that I can give you but your best bet is to get one of the books concerning the 374th Transport Group or 22TCS. You might start with the following people:

Mr. Wayne Monsen (22 TCS)
Camp 12 Rd
Dunbar, WI 54119

Mr. Russell Marsh
RR. 2 Box 441D
Jackson, GA 30233-9440

Herman C. Wood
AAC Enlisted Pilots Assn
P.O. Box 39202
Tacoma, WA 98439

Write if I can be of any additional help.

Sincerely and good luck,

Steve McDevitt
3815 Wellington Ct.
Owensboro, KY 42303



Subject:    Air crash December 1943.
From:           "Barry RALPH"
Sent:           Wednesday, November 29, 2000 1:35 PM

Dear Steve,

I am aware of the tragic crash of the C47 flown by your uncle, Lieutenant Crecelius, that crashed in the Rockhampton area in December 1943.

I have written a book called They Passed This Way - the United States of Australia - the States of Australia and World War Two.

I have listed an account of this tragedy taken exclusively from the original Queensland Police report. This includes statements from witnesses and sombre details of identification, burials etc.

There were 31 on board which (with the single exception of the B-17C crash near Mackay in June 1943 - 40 dead ) makes it the worse aviation disaster in Australian history.

My book recounts the fact that there were twenty Americans on board and three US Army nurses - Lieutenants Williams, Smith and Korranda. ( the fact that there were women on board upset the search teams considerably).

Also on board was an Australian war correspondent - Harold Dick.

I can send you a copy of this official police report should it be of interest.

Please be aware that it is a very depressing document.

My book will be published in the United States in February 2001. (check details on on the net)

I am working on my second book - Savage Wilderness - which is an account of the crash in North Queensland of a B24 Liberator in December 1942 ( Little Eva) One man (Grady Gaston) lasted 141 days in the bush before being rescued.

I am in contact with veterans of the 90th Bomb Group who are a great help, but the trail is cold and the time long ago.

Good Luck with your endeavours


Barry Ralph (now deceased)



Subject:    Police Reports
Date:             Thu, 7 Dec 2000 15:31:29 +1000
From:           "Barry RALPH"
To:                <>

Dear Steve,

The original police reports relating to the crash of the C-47 in December 1943 are attached.

Please be aware. They are taken from documents (foolscap) nearly sixty years old. They are yellowed and faded.

However if they do not come out clearly enough, do not hesitate to let me know. I can try and scan them again or post photocopies in the mail.

The reports would have been even more informative had it not been for the arrival of the Americans on the scene. In incidents such as this they would take over and few, if any, details would emerge.

This is why there is only post crash details on the Australian passengers.

Can you be more specific as to what you collect regarding New Guinea material. I have some photographs and artefacts - mostly relating to land campaigns.

Keep in touch


Barry Ralph (ow deceased)


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I'd like to thank Cheryl Cooper for her assistance with this home page, particularly for sending me scans of the photos of the crash scene taken by her father, Frank Rumpf, who was apparently interviewed by an historical society in 1987. Has anyone got a copy of this interview?

I'd also like to thank Mary O'Brien, Peter Murray and Ron Hempenstall for their assistance with this home page.

I'd like to thank Virginia Fazio Seuffert of Oak Park, Illinois, USA, for her assistance with information on her uncle, Robert S. Fazio who was tragically killed in this crash.


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


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This page first produced 27 January 1999

This page last updated 07 Oct 2018