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40-years ago today — Anniversary of Pan Am crash

Independent film maker Paul Crompton, hopes that his planned documentary about the 1974 Pan American World Airlines — known as Pan Am — crash in the territory will, among other things, result in a memorial for the victims, who died 40-years ago today.


“My hope for this film is that relatives and others connected to the crash have a clear explanation of what happened, why it happened and perhaps, what they can do next,” Crompton said via email while enroute to the territory. “Maybe it’s time to give them a place to visit with a memorial near the crash site? I don't know, it's something for the relatives to decide.”


“But what the research is showing is that now we have the internet, the world feels smaller and people are sharing their own stories of the crash,” said Crompton, who is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. “There is a shared sense of confusion or lack of clarity on the story. They want to know more. This film will hopefully help in some ways.”


Pan Am flight 806 was enroute from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles, with stops scheduled in Pago Pago and Honolulu.  About 11:41p.m. local time, the plane crashed 3,865 feet short of runway 5 at Pago Pago International Airport, and of the 101 persons on board — including ten crew members — only five people survived, according to a Nov. 4, 1974 investigation report by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


Asked what promoted the idea of a documentary, Compton said he has a friend in London who is connected to the crash. “He is the child of his father's second wife. His father's first wife was on the flight with their young daughter. Both sadly died,” said Crompton, who lives in London, England.


“My friend hasn't spoken to his father about it. It's a difficult conversation, obviously, but the story seems to have been buried. Other families I have since spoken with have dealt with it in the same way,” he said. It’s a story that has many unknowns to it. Maybe as time goes by the full facts will emerge?”


Crompton, who is with the England-based Barge Pole Productions, has ran in the last two weeks a paid advertisement in Samoa News seeking local residents who want to be interviewed for the documentary.


Asked if he has had any response so far, Crompton said, he has had “contact from American Samoans [and] its really encouraging. Some were at the scene soon after the crash. Some were involved in the following few days.”


“Having first hand accounts from the crash, even though it is 40 years ago, is crucial for any documentary. I feel fortunate to be in this position. I have also had contact from others involved in the prolonged legal case that followed, as well as former Pan Am employees and other officials,” he said.


As to when he plans to air the documentary, Crompton said, he is in the research stage and it will be a slow process, “but since it has affected people from all over the world from North America to New Zealand, Samoa to Britain and other countries” the documentary “should, and hopefully will, be available for broadcast in all those places.”


The independent film maker said he is looking forward to arriving in the territory, although he will only be on island until Feb. 3rd. “I’m really looking forward to coming this week. It’s a humbling experience working on a story of this scale,” he added.