A few months ago, I posted about the crash of Pan Am Flight 217 in 1968 while en route to Caracas, Venezuela and more specifically about a friend, Franciska Buyers, who was an air stewardess on that flight. More about Franciska and my relationship to her and her family appears on this link.

When I first posted about that flight and the tragedy that befell Pan Am 217, it was intended more as a personal tribute to Franciska than anything else. There was nothing on the net that was readily available about her and many of the others on that flight. It was a pleasant surprise when several people commented on that post and cited the names of people close to them who died in that crash. People expressed their appreciation for the post and the very fact that over 43 years later the tragedy was still remembered. There were people who offered touching recollections about those who died.

One person whose comments brought back memories was from Cameron Kane, the brother of yet another member of the crew -Katherine Mary Kane- who was a close friend of Franciska. Here are some of his comments:

“I am the youngest brother to Katherine Mary Kane. My sister, Katherine was a close friend of Franciska’s. Katherine attended the University of Bordeaux to study French and Art History. I think they met there. After college they rented an apartment together on the upper east side of New York City. They both got jobs at Pan Am in May 1968 with some assistance from my father who had connections to the airline. They started flying in August on separate routes but wanted to fly together. They managed to do that in the late autumn. I had dinner with them in NYC a few weeks before the accident. We had a good time with lots of laughter and wit in the glamor of a New York City evening.

I remember Franciska was a beautiful young lady. I have a picture of them both in uniform walking down my parent’s driveway in front of the flowering crab-apple tree. She was stunning! I remember wishing I were older so that I could impress her but I was just the little brother.

The accident ripped Katherine out of my life. When I was born in 1952 my sister would climb into the crib to cuddle me through the night. About 2 years after flight 217 went down I went into Katherine’s room looking for something. As I stood there for a moment a finger poked me hard in the shoulder blade. I turned around expecting to see a friend but saw no one. Dumb me, I scratched my head and started on my errand when I stopped and looked up; and looked around and said something like “Jesus Christ! Is that you Katherine?” Not a word, not a movement and no apparition. I was disappointed that there were no other fireworks but upon reflection I was grateful for being the recipient of a significant gesture. For all of you who have added up the odds and decided this life on earth is one lucky splatter in the universe, I’ll say: “This life is just the tip of the iceberg and there’s a lot more coming!”

I thank you for posting your recollections and I thank the people who gave comments. Each remembrance fills in a piece of the puzzle for me and I see that other people also grieve over this tragedy long ago.”

During one of my relocations within the US related to my job, a box containing personal papers and pictures was lost by the movers. It included letters from my parents – now both deceased. Among the pictures lost were several of Franciska and other members of her family. Cameron kindly sent me a picture taken in 1968 of Franciska with his sister Katherine in their uniforms. I sought and received his consent to post the picture on this blog. My thanks to Cameron for providing this picture which appears below.

I am glad to be able to recognize Katherine in a posthumous tribute to the victims of that crash.


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Franciska (on right) with Katherine

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2 Responses to “Pan Am Flight 217 Redux”

  1. Jill Breitbarth says:

    I left a comment on your blog today. I submitted my thoughts before typing in my name. I don’t wish to remain “anonymous” about my love for Juanita Martinez. Thanks again for remembering flight 217 and the people on board.

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