ON August 20, 2011, First Air’s Flight 6560 crashed, after slamming into a hillside, as its pilots battled to land at Resolute Bay, one of the world’s remote residential outposts.
The Boeing 737-200 combi — carrying both passengers and cargo — had struggled on its final descent, in poor weather, amid confusion in the cockpit.
“We’re THREE mile final and not configured,” first officer, David Hare, told captain, Blair Rutherford.
This was shorthand for the emergency that, just THREE miles from the airport, their plane was not properly lined up for landing.
Both pilots, and two crew members, were among the 12 who died in that crash.
Hare, 35, left behind a wife, and THREE daughters, with the youngest being just a month old.
Mike Rideout, 65, an electrician, also died in that plane crash.
Just THREE years earlier, he had survived another plane crash, while flying to Cambridge Bay, another outpost in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, of about 25 communities, of nearly THREE thousand people.
A Summit Air Charters had plane missed the runway, as it came in to land, and ended up landing on an icy field, that time.
And, as fate would have it, that Dornier DO228 plane, had been flying from Resolute Bay.
All the 12 passengers, exactly the same number of those who died outside Resolute Bay, and the two crew members, escaped with their lives at Cambridge Bay.
Incredibly, THIRTY years before his death, in that plane crash on the outskirts of Resolute Bay, Rideout had survived another plane crash, in Churchill Falls, in central Labrador.
Chesly Tibbo, a carpenter, died on his 49th birthday, when Flight 6560 came down.
Just like Rideout, Tibbo had also been a passenger on that plane, which missed the runway, outside Cambridge Bay, in 2008, and had escaped with his life.
His relatives revealed he had taken exactly THREE years, to fully recover from injuries and conquer his fear of flying but, as fate would have it, he would perish in a plane crash on that August day in 2011.
Tibbo was flying back to work, at Resolute Bay, after attending his sister’s funeral, back home in Newfoundland, where he had been one of the pallbearers, THREE weeks earlier.
The plane, which took his life, had been set to land at this small Canadian town, which lies on the fringes of the Arctic — one of the northern most settings, for human settlement, in our world today.
Because its residents, of just about 200 people rarely see any light, throughout the year, it’s been dubbed the town with no dawn.
When Fight 6560 came down, in a blanket of thick fog, only THREE passengers survived.
They included Gabrielle Pelky, a seven-year-old student whose step grandfather, businessman Aziz Kheraj, had chartered the pane to bring in supplies, for his South Camp Inn business.
Her sister, Cheyenne, who was just six, was not so lucky, and died in that crash.
Nicole Williamson, a 23-year-old university student flying to her first job, and 48-year-old geologist, Robin Wyllie, were the other survivors.
And, Williamson remembered being attracted by the cries of Gabrielle, going to help her out of the plane, before the injured duo sat on the frozen ground, surrounded by smoldering wreckage and dead bodies.
‘“I remember, she said, ‘this was my very first plane crash,’” Williamson to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Poor Gabrielle, as if she was talking about a mere car crash, as if it was normal for someone, let alone a seven-year kid, to talk about the number of times they had been involved in plane crashes, and lived to tell their story.
THREE, THE NUMBER, THE MESSAGE, THE MIRACLE
The number of those who survived the Cambridge Bay crash, in 2008, only for them to die in the Resolute Bay plane crash THREE years later, could possibly have been THREE.
But, Morgan Cox, a mechanic, decided not to travel on that doomed Flight 6560, so he could attend his son’s 12th birthday party.
Someone once wrote that we often only consider that walking on water, or floating in thin air, provide the ultimate definition of a miracle.
What we seemingly don’t recognise, he wrote, is that even just walking on earth, itself, is a miracle.
It was a miracle those THREE people survived that plane crash at Resolute Bay.
And, it was even a bigger miracle that the plane came down, at a time when units of the Canadian Defence Forces were conducting some drills, about a mock pane crash, around the remote town.
This meant the Canadian military found itself having to confront a real plane crash where they had planned for a mock crash.
But, why the number THREE, and why did all this happen in 2011?
Was it just a mere coincidence, or a miracle, that in the same year, the number THREE proved a defining factor in the difference between winners and losers in football?
It was the same year Barcelona scored THREE goals, to beat Manchester United, in the UEFA Champions League final.
Both sides had come into that final, in 2011, with THREE Champions League titles, in their trophy cabinets.
THREE years earlier, the Red Devils had taken the number of their Champions League titles, to THREE, with victory over Chelsea in the final in Moscow.
For Barca, their victory in 2011 was their THIRD straight Champions League title, in a final in which they had met, and beaten, English opposition.
Their first win over English opposition had come in 2006, when they beat Arsenal 2-1, in the final, with that showdown in Paris also producing THREE goals.
THREE years later, Barca again met English opposition, in the final, and beat Manchester United 2-0.
And, in 2011, it wasn’t only about Barca and United and the power, or miracle, of the number THREE, in football.
In the CONCACAF Champions League final that year, Mexican club, CF Monterrey, scored THREE goals to power themselves to glory, as they beat American side, Real Salt Lake, 3-2.
In the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, that same year, THREE Mexican players — Pablo Acosta, Jose Hernandez and Giovanni dos Santos — scored to help their country beat hosts, the United States, at the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena.
In the Copa Libertadores Cup final, that same year, there were THREE goals, as Brazilian side beat Penarol of Uruguay.
In that year’s Copa America final, Uruguay scored THREE times to beat Paraguay 3-0 at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires in Argentina.
In the FIFA Under-20 World Cup final, that same year, Oscar grabbed a hattrick, as Brazil scored THREE goals to beat Portugal 3-2, after extra-time, in Bogota, Colombia.
Mexico also scored THREE goals, to defeat France 3-1, in the third-place play-off match.
And, in the FIFA Club World Cup final, that same year, THREE Barcelona players — Lionel Messi, Xavi and Fabregas — were on target to power their team to a comprehensive victory, over Santos, in Yokohama, Japan.
The trend wasn’t only limited to men’s football.
In the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women World Cup, that year, Sweden scored THREE goals to eliminate Austria.
And, the United States scored THREE goals, to beat hosts France 3-1, in the semi-final while, in the other semi-final, Japan also scored THREE goals, to eliminate the Swedes, and win 3-1.
In the final, the Japanese appeared down, and out, as the Americans led 2-1, in extra-time, with time running out.
But, with just THREE minutes left, Japanese skipper Homare Sawa found the priceless equaliser in the 117th minute to force the battle in a penalty shootout.
In the lottery, the Americans missed their first THREE penalties, only converting their fourth, while the Japanese converted THREE of their four penalties, to be crowned World Champions after winning the shootout 3-1.
COACH PITSO, THE BEAST THEY CREATED IN 2011
Last Saturday, Pitso Mosimane and his Mamelodi Sundowns completed the Treble.
Maybe, some have forgotten, and it’s understandable, given all the beautiful success stories which Mosimane has written at Sundowns, in recent years.
It’s easy to forget that in October 2011, as the global football world struggled to understand the Shame of Mbombela, where Bafana Bafana players danced on the turf, Pitso was the coach.
Believing they had qualified for the 2012 AFCON finals, after a goalless home draw against Sierra Leone, the Bafana Bafana players exploded into a party, with their fans joining in the festival of happiness.
However, the rules told a different story, the head-to-head scenario came into effect, and this by the end of the calculations, Bafana Bafana had failed to qualify, minutes after celebrating on the pitch, and just a year after playing at the World Cup finals.
And, as Pitso started counting the costs of failure, the axes were being sharpened at SAFA House for him to be kicked out of his job.
Soon, he was gone.
“I begged SAFA not to fire me, but they did,’’ Pitso told Sowetan Live. “They were determined to get rid of me, after the qualifier against Ethiopia.
“I said to them, ‘we still have five matches to go, I can get them to Brazil (for the 2014 World Cup).’
“SAFA had invested so much in me. They sent me to go on courses abroad, I was the interim coach and then assistant coach to Perreira for the World Cup, but they didn’t believe in my vision.
“We were drawing games against top nations like Ghana, Ivory Coast and Zambia but SAFA were swayed by some in the media, I admit, I could have handled some matters better.’’
But, even though the THREE-team mini-group, after the head-to-head results were factored in, proved hostile to Pitso, only a fool could not see value in a man whose team had beaten Egypt, at home, and drawn against the Pharaohs, away, in the same qualifiers.
His THREE draws should have provided him with a platform, to build on, going forward, especially in the year where this number appeared to have such magical powers.
But, then, black coaches, back then, didn’t appear to have the same status, in South African football, as their white counterparts, even if that light-skinned coach was someone as hopeless, as Joel Santana, of Brazil.
So, Pitso had to go, and go he did!
What those, who kicked him out didn’t know, was that they had just created a monster.
A man who, from then, would be driven by the passion to prove them wrong, and a determination, to show them he was very good.
And, in a way, he had the miracles of 2011 on his side.
So, Pitso, the monster they created in a year where the power of the number THREE appeared to define success in football, has been on a ruthless campaign to show his true qualities.
And, while 2011 might not have rewarded him, it defined him, and the year, and the power of the number THREE, have both not forgotten him.
Last Saturday, Pitso guided Mamelodi Sundowns to the TREBLE, sweeping the three major trophies in South African football, even when, at one stage, his men were 13 points behind in the championship race.
The league championship they won, the other week, as they chased and overhauled Kaizer Chiefs, was his team’s THIRD straight title and, the Nedbank Cup, secured last Saturday, completed the TREBLE.
Of course, this side of the Limpopo, many of us would have loved to see Chiefs winning the league championship, at least for the sake of Khama Billiat, and everything he has endured, in the past few months.
We wanted him to add another league title to the THREE he has in his cabinet.
But, if there is a man whom we can accept, as someone who was worth it, in terms of spoiling our party, then it has to be Pitso.
It’s simple, no other black African coach has given us, the people of Southern Africa, a reason to be proud, in our own man, like Mr Jingles. When you go to Morocco, and you have a bay of Moroccans singing your name, you know you have broken the barriers,
That’s what happened to Pitso, recently, in enemy territory.
And, if they thought they were destroying him in 2011, simply because they didn’t understand his vision, or they didn’t appreciate having a black coach in their stable, they misfired horribly.
They should have checked what was happening around the world, from Canada to California, from Paris to Paraguay, and they would have seen this was a special year.
They created a beast and it’s now all about THREES.
If you doubt that, just check who won the TREBLE in South Africa?
Of course, the man whose coaching obituary they wanted to write in 2011.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno, Bruno!
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