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Local man connected to mysterious Cold War crash hears from others
Intense interest—and mystery—still surrounds the Sept. 18, 1961, plane crash in Africa that killed then-U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld.
Peter Brichant, 81, a Stafford County resident who played a small role in the international drama, found that out after an article on his recollections appeared in The Free Lance–Star in September.
He was contacted by several researchers, he said, who “wanted to know what I know,” said Brichant, who was a U.N. air-traffic controller in the Congo at the time. He was the last person, officially, to talk to the pilots of the DCE6B aircraft that crashed upon landing in Rhodesia, now Zambia.
Brichant contends the crash was no accident, and that there was a cover-up. He bases that on his tower’s communications with the Swedish diplomat’s plane; a conversation Brichant had with the lone survivor; and a view he got of the wreckage.
Brichant was among those called to testify at an inquest following the crash, but says he kept those details to himself because he was told by higher-ups to keep quiet.
“I was just a small cog in the overall picture. I never realized the scope and enormity of it,” Brichant said.
He says he spoke up only to defend the actions of the doomed plane’s pilots and flight crew.
“I think I’m done with it now.”
Roger Lipsey, whose biography, “Hammarskjöld: A Life,” was published this year, sent Brichant a copy of the book after the story appeared. One chapter deals with questions surrounding Hammarskjöld’s fatal flight.
A researcher in Sweden wanted to talk to Brichant about events that were not in the official U.N. investigation in 1962, which ruled the cause of the crash undetermined.
A Rhodesian commission report attributed it to pilot error. Brichant said a conclusion that three experienced pilots on board made an altimeter error and flew the plane into the ground in Rhodesia was wrong.
Brichant, a native of Brussels, was 28 at the time, working for the United Nations and manning the tower at the Ndjili airport in Leopoldville, Congo.
Brichant’s recollections came on the heels of the independent Hammarskjöld Commission report last fall asking that the U.N. investigation into the Swedish diplomat’s death be reopened.
That report, released in September and written by four international lawyers, suggests there is new evidence.
Also, that the National Security Agency, in light of the Edward Snowden leaks scandal, might have records of radio transmissions that could shed light on the crash.
Read the Hammarskjöld Commission report, hammarskjoldcommission.org/report/
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431