More debris linked to 1958 military jet crash washes up on beach

Family of lost Canadian fighter pilot: 'It's almost like we found him'

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - A search turned up very little after a Royal Canadian Navy pilot crashed off Mayport 59 years ago, but now family members of Lt. William Barry Thomas Troy are finally getting some comfort after learning Hurricane Irma has helped unravel pieces of this heart-wrenching mystery -- a mystery that continues to unfold as more debris has been found.

As News4Jax first reported two weeks ago, a park ranger discovered several items on the beach at Hanna Park after Irma hit on Sept. 11. The park ranger, along with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, did some detective work and linked the debris to the Feb. 25, 1958, crash of Lt. Troy's Royal Canadian Navy F-2 Banshee fighter jet. One of the biggest clues in the debris: a parachute harness with Troy's initials on it.

WATCH ORIGINAL STORY: 1958 crash debris washes ashore

We contacted Troy's family and were able to reach his brother Dick in California to let him know about the find. And, following our story, a Jacksonville man came to us saying he, too, found a piece of that plane, and hoped to help Troy's family further.

"When I found it, it was laying in the sand like this way," said Pete Druash, about finding the metal piece along Ponte Vedra Beach in St. Johns County after Irma.

Druash first thought it was a dead fish, but quickly realized what it really was.

"Immediately I knew it had something to do with aviation," he said. "I told my wife, 'I think I found an airplane.'"

Druash knows military aircraft. His father was a pilot, both of his brothers served in the U.S Navy and he's done his own research. And, after seeing our story, he felt the debris he found could very well be a piece of the same F-2 Banshee fighter jet flown by Troy.

In fact, he did his own comparison and believes the piece he uncovered will be positively identified by the Canadian military.

"See how that piece has that shape to it, and that strut has the same shape," Druash said.

He pointed out the curves on the metal and compared them to the air intake on the front of Troy's F-2 Banshee. Druash also looked up the blueprints for single-seat fighter jets and determined it could be a match. 

"Because airplanes didn't have air conditioners back then, this was the fresh air intake," Druash said.

The Canadian government is looking into this historic discovery on Ponte Vedra Beach, which was made around the same time Troy's initialed parachute harness and other plane debris were found at Hanna Park.

These discoveries are bringing up new emotions for Troy's sister and niece, who live in Canada.

"Some people thought finding the parachute isn't that great, but for us, particularly me and my brother Dick. It just brought home all the emotions back to the surface, living through that again, and how that must have been for him," said Sandra Berry, Lt. Troy's younger sister.

Berry was a freshman in college when her brother's plane went down.

"His death hit everyone pretty hard," she said. "He was described as missing. We were hopeful that was a blip and we would find him."

Berry said they held nightly vigils to pray for his return.

"We were sure he was going to be found," she added.

But Lt. Troy wasn't found. In fact not much was, except for his helmet, log book and a little bit of debris.

The new discoveries -- especially the harness with his initials -- is helping heal decades of hurt.

"It's not closure, but to have an artifact with his name on it, it's almost like we found him. It's like a piece of him coming back. We never had his remains, but that almost replaces it in some way," said Sharon Troy, Lt. Troy's niece. "I feel like I've been grieving for my uncle, which I've never had the opportunity to do, and some 60 years later, it's just mind-blowing to me." 

News4Jax has been in contact with the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in the hopes of helping get the found pieces confirmed and given to Lt. Troy's family.

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