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Letter: Accident at Piarco Airport in 1963


Caribbeannewsnow.com
Last Update: Nov 14, 2007

In January 5, 1963, a small Swedish aircraft, a Cessna Skywagon, caught fire and exploded just after landing at Piarco Airport, Trinidad. The pilot Torgny Sommelius and his passenger Erik Strandmark both died. As it was the first air crash at Piarco Airport and its reasons unclear an official investigation was made.

Dear Sir:


In January 5, 1963, a small Swedish aircraft, a Cessna Skywagon, caught fire and exploded just after landing at Piarco Airport, Trinidad. The pilot Torgny Sommelius and his passenger Erik Strandmark both died. As it was the first air crash at Piarco Airport and its reasons unclear an official investigation was made. In Sweden the accident resulted in black newspaper headlines as both Torgny Sommelius and Erik Strandmark were well-known cultural profiles.

Torgny Sommelius was the "hereditary prince" and the "black sheep" of a media family in southern Sweden; his father was the chief editor and owner of Helsingborgs Dagblad. He had travelled widely in Europe and Asia, covered the Mid-East crisis as a reporter and written four non-fiction books. In January 1963 he was newly married and on his way to cross the Atlantic from Brazil to Africa in a one-man aeroplane.

Erik Strandmark was one of the most acclaimed actors in the circle around the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman. He played leading roles in "The Seventh Seal" and other famous Bergman films. He was also a sailor, and in the late 1940's he ended up in Port of Spain, where he fell in love with Ena Bernadine Philip Naturnée. He married her and brought her to Sweden, they had two daughters and stayed on for several years, then went back to Trinidad in 1960. Strandmark directed plays in Port of Spain, e g "Midsummer's Eve". He worked with Trinidad Theatre Group. He was an adivisor of a theatre society in San Fernando. He also made documentary films for Trinidad Televison.

When Sommelius arrived in Trinidad in late December 1962 he stayed with the Strandmark family at the outskirts of Port of Spain (close to where Derek Walcott was living). Erik Strandmark helped Sommelius shoot some scenes for his television film about the journey across the Atlantic. That is why Strandmark took a short trip as a passenger in the Cessna Skywagon when it exploded.

Strandmark's wife and their daughters later moved to Sweden.

Now, some forty years after the accident, I am writing a biography of Torgny Sommelius, a book about his life, his travels, and his writings.

I would be grateful for any information concerning Torgny Sommelius' time in Trinidad: December 1962 to January 1963. I am also interested in information about Erik Strandmark and his wife Ena Bernadine Philip Naturnée Strandmark.

If you have any information, please write to me at tomas.lofstrom@telia.com. If you prefer to write a normal letter, my address is: Tomas Lofstrom, Gronalund Rorum, 27735 Kivik, Sweden.

I will visit Trinidad the first week of December. If you have a story to tell and would like to meet me in person, please send a message and I will contact you.

I am a Swedish writer and journalist. You may find some credentials in English at my website www.tomaslofstrom.com.

Tomas Lofstrom


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