ROSEVILLE (CBS13) – Long before Captain Sully Sullenberger’s “Miracle on the Hudson”, there was a lesser-known water crash-landing involving a World War II Veteran from Roseville and his crew of brave young men.
When we sat down with 97-year-old Ken Haynes recently, it was clear he remembers that fateful day in February of 1945 as if it were yesterday.
Ken and nine others on-board the B-17 Flying Fortress known as “The Little Davey II” were on their way to a target in Germany. Their mission was to take out an oil refinery.
They would never get the chance.
Ken described the chaos of that flight. “As soon as the plane took off,” he told CBS13, “I knew there was a problem. I said engine No. 3’s on fire. The flames were leaping back over that wing and that wing is a gas tank.”
The crew tried to put the fire out but Ken says “It didn’t work, the flames spread now, now they’re leaping back over the wing like 36 inches.”
The plane was flying toward the small English village of Alderton. It was decision time for the crew: try to find a spot to land the aircraft or put it down in the River Deben, assuring there would be no loss of life on the ground.
Ken Haynes tells us, “We hit the water at 120 miles an hour. Water hit me in the chest so hard it threw me backwards through the bomb bay doors and I landed flat on my back in the bomb bay. By the time I got back on my feet, we’re completely underwater. Water was all the way up to my chin. I just knew that was going be the end of me. The only thing I thought about was how was my mother going take this?”
His mother would never have to hear those words. Ken was plucked from the water by two fishermen. He and the pilot were the only survivors.
Ken’s survival story has turned into a story of celebration for the English Town of Alderton. Every February, they lay a wreath in the River Deben, honoring the men who spared their town that day.
The village pub recently put in a plaque with the names of the crew members.
Ken Haynes’ name is prominently displayed as a constant reminder of what happened that day.
For Ken, it’s a day that changed his life and his love for the simple things. Like just being alive.