© Robert McClellanB-24 LIBERATOR FOUND OFF NEWFOUNDLANDA team of divers supported by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS), the Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and Ocean Quest Adventures have confirmed the discovery of a World War Two-era B-24 Liberator bomber that crashed upon take-off on 4 September 1943 into Gander Lake, Newfoundland, with four airmen aboard - Wing Commander J.M. Young, Squadron Leader John G. MacKenzie, Flying Officer V.E. Bill, and Leading Aircraftman G. Ward. When an engine failed, the aircraft made a slow turn and barrel rolled into the lake, taking the four airmen to their death.

Using state-of-the-art underwater imaging equipment, the team of highly experienced divers from Canada, the United States, and France, completed a survey dive on 5 September in Gander Lake. The video and images confirmed an earlier 3D sonar scan from July 2022. For more than nine years researcher and diver Tony Merkle has been trying to confirm the location of the ill-fated RCAF aircraft. He said: “It is a really special dive for me. I’ve never dived on a plane and since I discovered the site, it means a lot to me to share this part of Newfoundland history.”

At the time of the accident, military hard hat divers found the aircraft resting on a ledge and attempted to attach cables to the fuselage. While recovering the body of Squadron Leader MacKenzie, the aircraft slipped off the ledge and sunk to a depth beyond the divers’ range. Due to poor visibility, extreme depth and cold water, the military abandoned recovery and salvage efforts after 12 days. The aircraft, dubbed ‘Liberator 589D’, had remained undisturbed ever since, and the expedition divers found it oriented upsidedown on a steep ledge nearly 165ft below the surface.

Images and video are being donated to the Shipwreck Preservation Society of Newfoundland and Labrador for future educational outreach.

The effort to locate the bomber is part of a broader RCGS flagged project, The Great Island Expedition, taking the divers to various locations across Newfoundland. The team has been documenting two US Navy World War Two shipwrecks in the Burin Peninsula, and exploring underwater sites near Gros Morne National Park, and will be conducting dives to commemorate the 80th anniversary of German U-boat attacks at Bell Island in 1942.