Major C.R. Elander and his wife Lois, both 31 years old and the parents of three children, were living at the time at West Point, New York. Lois was suffering with a broken spine and dislocated shoulder as a result of the crash. They felt it was a miracle that they made it to the rescue ship, the Celerina, and were able to get pulled on board.
Due to the severity of Lois’ injuries, she was one of the first to be air lifted from the deck of the Celerina the following day in the midst of the same raging storm that had driven the overloaded life raft 22 miles the night before. The helicopter was from the Canadian Air Craft Carrier, the Bonaventure, waiting just a few miles away. Major Elander accompanied here to the Bonaventure and stayed by her side.
While on the Canadian Carrier, Major Elander told his view of the disaster to reporters. He said, “Our first intimation that there was anything amiss occurred when we were given a second more thorough ditching drill. This time all passengers put on their life jackets and were then told to remove their shoes, socks or stockings, jewelry, pins and so forth.
“Although we knew a ditching was about to happen, an air of quiet calm prevailed in the cabin. As the aircraft started its decent we put our heads down between our knees and held on tightly. The cabin lights went out and all that could be heard was a high whine as we came lower and lower.”
He and his wife, thought their chances of survival were slim. The passed tender words as they prepared for ditching in the cabin.
“Thank you, darling, for a wonderful nine years,” he said that Sunday night as the Flying Tiger continued to plunge toward the storm-whipped North Atlantic. Gripping her husband’s hand, she replied, “Sweetie, its been a wonderful life. I am glad I knew you.”
From that point the collision turned blank. Lois found herself flying forward in the seat, her back and shoulder wrenched, her husband clawing in the darkness to save her, but failing to find her. Somehow she was able to unclip the safety belt, allowing the seat to fall away. Somehow she got through an exit door and plunged into the sea. And somehow she then began to tread water, aware that unconsciousness was rapidly overcoming her, aware that she was in paralyzing agony, that her legs would no longer respond to the command of her brain to tread water.
Someone bobbed up in the water besides her, she said. That someone had a strong grasping hand. He took her by the arm with a fierce, painful grip, but she felt no pain.
“Relax, lady, I’ll help you. Just relax,” the man’s voice ordered her and somehow she realized she could relax. She felt the man swim with her toward the black object she had seen but not recognized. She felt herself being shoved over the rim of the object, a raft, and falling into two feet of water on the bottom of the bobbing sanctuary.
Bodies in the raft were packed like sardines. Men were clambering over one another for a secure space on the wave-tossed rubber boat. She was drowning, her head well below the water in the raft. She thrust her hands down and forced her head up and heard a voice calling, “Lois! Lois!”
“Dick!” The solitary word escaped her lips as she vanished under the water in the raft again, but two strong hands seized her and dragged her up until her head was clear of the water. He had found his wife and supported her under the weight of the survivors for five hours, keeping her head clear of the water.
Lois, who suffered a broken spine and dislocated shoulder, told reporters from her stretcher: “The whole thing was a miracle. We lost one another in the darkness after we crashed. A young soldier dragged me onto the raft. I kept calling, ‘Dick, Dick, where are you?’
“Then I found him—right besides me on the raft.”
Major Elander and his wife were two of the four survivors taken to the Bonaventure for emergency treatment. They were then taken to Shannon, Ireland, for more extensive hospital treatment, the day prior to the Celerina’s reaching Cork.