Bomber was unlawfully seized: marine lawyer

An Alberta family didn't have an historical-resources permit when they salvaged a Second World War bomber out of Watson Lake. But it doesn't matter because, technically, the bomber isn't an historic resource.

An Alberta family didn’t have an historical-resources permit when they salvaged a Second World War bomber out of Watson Lake.

But it doesn’t matter because, technically, the bomber isn’t an historic resource, argues Victoria-based marine lawyer Darren Williams, who is representing the family.

After two decades of research and training, amateur historian John Jasman, along with his wife, son and brother Brian, successfully pulled a B-26 Marauder from Watson Lake last week.

Almost immediately, the plane was seized by Watson Lake RCMP.

Charges are being laid under the Yukon Historic Resources Act.

“No person shall search or excavate for historic objects or human remains except in accordance with a historic resources permit,” reads section 62 of the act.

The Jasmans didn’t have a permit, but the bomber isn’t an historic object, said Williams.

An “historic object” is defined as either an archeological artifact or a paleontological find.

A bomber is a manufactured industrial item, not a “one-off” piece of archaeological record.

“If a plane is an artifact, then what stops a 50-year-old toaster from being an archeological item as well?” said Williams.

An historic artifact can also be an “abandoned” object more than 45 years old.

The B-26 was never abandoned, said Williams.

The US government has surrendered all claims to the crashed aircraft, but waterways such as Watson Lake fall under federal jurisdiction.

As such, the crashed B-26 is, and always has been, the property of the Canadian government.

“Until such time as the federal government comes back and says, ‘We don’t want it, you can have it,’ we say it’s not abandoned,” said Williams.

The Jasmans are just the latest private salvagers to strip the territory of historic resources, said Jeff Hunston, the manager of heritage resources for the Department Of Tourism and Culture.

“Old airplanes are hot commodities … it’s pretty wild and woolly at times,” he said.

The family claims no profit motive in salvaging the bomber.

“They’re not pirates, and they’re not Indiana Jones,” said Williams.

Without private salvors like the Jasmans, the Watson Lake B-26 would likely have crumbled into rust, warn vintage aircraft enthusiasts.

The Yukon government had no plans to salvage the aircraft.

“The Yukon government has known about these planes for years, and they haven’t done a darn thing about it,” said Williams.

“Then somebody else comes along and risks their money and their safety to do something about it, and they find it convenient to jump in and seize it,” he said.

Even as it takes legal action against the Jasmans, the government has no plans to restore the seized bomber.

It hasn’t even bothered to cover the plane with a tarp.

“If this artifact is so incredibly important to them, then why let it rot at the bottom of the lake?” said Williams.

“Do you think the Yukon government would really be ponying up the cash right now to have somebody remove that from the lake?” he said. “I don’t think so, somehow.”

Following its seizure by the RCMP, the wreck was left in an unguarded area, where it was quickly vandalized by local souvenir hunters.

“We don’t want other treasure hunters going over to it and pulling parts off of it,” said Watson Lake detachment commander Sgt. Paul Thalhofer after refusing to reveal where it was stored.

The US-made B-26 was originally bound for Siberia, where it was to be used by the Soviet Air Force.

Thanks to an icy stopover in Watson Lake, the aircraft never reached its destination.

“Pilot, attempting to make an emergency landing in poor light, skidded down the runway about 100 yards and ran into a snowbank. The plane was damaged beyond repair,” read the official US military crash report.

When the lake ice melted, the plane sank to the bottom.

There are only eight restored B-26 Marauders worldwide, most of which are in American aviation museums.

The Jasmans have a court date for July 14.

Contact Tristin Hopper at

tristinh@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

d
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for March 3, 2021.

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read