It was a simple call out for stories about Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way from Irish RTÉ journalist John Creedon, who was making a hauntingly beautiful three part series about the longest defined coastal route in the world. He never expected to unearth an eye-witness account of the rescue of survivors from Flight 923, an American Military flight from New Jersey to Frankfurt which ditched in the Atlantic off the Irish West Coast on September 23rd 1962.
Mike Flahive from Ballybunion was 10 and on that stormy evening was sitting on the breathtaking Cliffs at Bromore looking out to sea. From there he spied a Canadian Aircraft Carrier on the horizon, which was carrying survivors and casualties from the ill-fated flight. The flight was en-route to a military base in Frankfurt, and the four engine Super Constellation with 76 people on board developed engine failure and ditched in stormy weather in the Atlantic before it could reach Shannon Airport where it had been diverted.
The search and rescue operation resulted in a Swiss Cargo Ship, the S.S. Celerina rescuing 48 survivors who were clinging to an upturned life raft. When the search was exhausted, the HMCS Bonaventure, a Canadian aircraft carrier airlifted the injured, and took twelve of the recovered bodies on board. Survivors were airlifted to Cork and Shannon.
Fred Caruso was one of those survivors – a young GI – lived to tell the tale of those dark four hours clinging to life despite the fury of the Atlantic Ocean on that September Wednesday in 1962. Fred wrote “Born Again Irish” an account of his experiences and talks to John about the tragedy.
John also interviews Mike the young boy who witnessed the rescue, and introduces him for the first time to Fred, the young GI who survived the crash. In addition, rare Archive footage from the RTÉ Archives captures an interview with other survivors at the time at Cork Airport.
This story of life and death off the Ballybunion Coast never received much publicity at the time as it happened at the height of the Cold War.
To watch this intriguing account the forgotten Flight 923, go to www.rte.ie/player or for international viewers simply download www.rte.ie/playerinternational. RTE One’s Creedon’s Wild Atlantic Way is a 3 part series which follows John Creedon as he travels the two and a half thousand kilometre journey from Kinsale to Malin Head.