2012-07-20 / Front Page

Words from the heart

Duo write song to remember Long Creek tragedy
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Steven Doyon (left) and John Kierstead (right) finish performing a song about the Long Creek air disaster of 1944. (Jack Flagler photo) Steven Doyon (left) and John Kierstead (right) finish performing a song about the Long Creek air disaster of 1944. (Jack Flagler photo) Sitting on a bench in front of the Long Creek Air Tragedy memorial, John Kierstead relayed the words a history professor once told him: “It isn’t enough to read history, you’ve got to do it. There’s got to be something you can do.”

Kierstead, a South Portland resident, took those words to heart when he helped raise funds to build a memorial to the 1944 air crash that killed 19 people in the Red Bank neighborhood of the city, including pilot Phee Russell, making it the deadliest air crash in Maine’s history.

About a dozen people gathered at the memorial on the corner of Westbrook Street and Macarthur Circle on Wednesday, July 11 at 4:45 p.m., the date and time of the crash 68 years prior.

Kierstead performed a song with his friend and guitarist Steven Doyon that Kierstead wrote about the crash. Doyon said the ballad is one of a few songs with a military theme the two have been working on. Doyon and Kierstead have been friends since the two were in eighth grade in South Portland middle school.

“We both love history. It’s a good match. We’re almost like brothers we’ve known each other so long,” Doyon said.

The exact cause of the 1944 crash is still unknown. A 2010 article published in the Sentry by Kathy DiPhillippo of the South Portland Historical Society said Russell “somehow lost control of the plane” before he crashed into a trailer complex housing families of shipyard workers. Kierstead said there are reports of thick fog on that day, but Russell was “a hell of a pilot” and the fog shouldn’t have been enough to cause him to crash.

But once the Douglas A-26 twin-engine plane dropped below a certain elevation, Russell had very little chance. “Everything was working against him,” Kierstead said. “He did his best.”

Return to top