Survivors of Wabush aircraft hijacking look again on traumatic flight 50 years later

Survivors of Wabush aircraft hijacking look again on traumatic flight 50 years later

After 50 years, Josette Disongh can communicate candidly about the day she was held hostage within the air over Labrador at gunpoint. 

On the time, although, it wasn’t clear if she’d make it by way of the ordeal alive.

Disongh was a flight attendant on QuebecAir Flight 321 on Dec. 14, 1972. She was boarding passengers at Wabush Airport when a younger man stepped onto the aircraft holding a .22-calibre rifle.

The sight of the person’s gun did not shock her: stewardesses had been used to shuttling hunters round, she mentioned, chatting with CBC Information half a century after the hijacking.

However she did not usually have these rifles pointed at her head for 10 hours, their homeowners demanding a direct flight to Vancouver.

When the person boarded, he appeared stressed, Disongh recounted. He would not sit down or buckle up, and finally sat on an armrest, pointing his gun at her and issuing orders.

Officers tried to board the flight to cease him. Disongh remembers panicking, telling her colleagues to shut the aircraft door and take off, terrified any try to disarm the person would finish in her demise.

So that they did — leaving the Wabush tarmac en route for Montreal, the closest the flight might get to Vancouver earlier than it needed to refuel.

A woman wearing glasses
Josette Disongh recounts the day she was held at gunpoint on a flight from Wabush, Labrador. (CBC)

Disongh recollects sitting in entrance of the gunman for the whole lot of that flight, relaying his requests to employees and making dialog.

“You get the barrel of the gun digging at the back of your head and you do not know what to assume,” Disongh mentioned nearly casually, the reminiscence now lengthy previously.

“You go into final panic or final calm. My response was one in every of calm, and simply making an attempt to purpose with him.”

By the point they touched down in Montreal, the gunman — Larry Maxwell Stanford — advised her “he wanted a while to assume,” Disongh recalled. So the flight went on to Ottawa, Disongh speaking to him at size all the method.

Standford finally realized he may benefit from psychotherapy, she says, and requested officers to fly his father in from Churchill Falls, together with a physician.

Once they lastly confirmed up, “he surrendered his gun to the senior stewardess and he gave me the bullets,” Disongh mentioned. “He had a handful of bullets.”

Larry Maxwell Stanford was taken into custody in November 1972 after he hijacked a QuebecAir aircraft at gunpoint. (Boris Spremo/The Toronto Star/Getty Photos)

Stanford was later identified with anti-social persona dysfunction, extra generally often called psychopathy.

He would go on to spend most of his life behind bars, a jail profession that started with a 20-year sentence for the hijacking.

In 1983, whereas on parole, Stanford tried to kill his sister by hitting her greater than 20 occasions within the head with a hammer. He left her, bloodied and partially clothed, underneath a pile of particles soaked in a flammable liquid. He was convicted of tried homicide and sentenced to fifteen years.

As soon as Stanford completed serving his full time period in 2008, he moved to Edmonton to be near household. 

He was most just lately sentenced in 2019 to 9 years in jail for the sexual assault, tried choking, smothering and illegal confinement of a lady with epilepsy.

Lifelong impression

Disongh says she refuses to fly on the anniversary of the hijacking, as a substitute spending every Dec. 14 as a “celebration of life.”

Others on the flight nonetheless really feel its results 50 years onward.

Helen Stone, who was among the many 57 passengers on the flight, recollects small particulars of her journey that day, regardless of 5 a long time having handed. “To see this man up entrance with a gun — your first thought is, why did not he test that in?” she mentioned.

An elderly woman and a man sit beside each other
Helen and Sean Stone had been passengers on the aircraft who witnessed the hijacking. (CBC)

Stone was together with her household, together with two babies, travelling to Ontario for Christmas to see the kids’s grandparents.

After the ordeal, the household obtained on one other aircraft to Toronto. “Essentially the most scary time of my life was to get on one other aircraft,” Stone mentioned. 

“You are still wanting across the airport to see who seems suspicious and who does not.”

Stone says since that day, she does not really feel snug flying — not even in Labrador.

“It is a very long time in the past, however when somebody mentions it, all of it comes again,” she says.

“By no means considered a hijacking in Wabush, that is for certain.”

Learn extra from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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