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Alberta Salvagers Face Legal Troubles

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« on: July 04, 2009, 08:03:03 am »










                                            Alberta salvagers face legal troubles






Gwendolyn Richards and
Natalie Alcoba,
Calgary Herald;
Canwest News Service
July 3, 2009
  CALGARY

- A pair of Alberta brothers accused of pillaging Yukon's history are gearing up for an unusual legal battle that sees them fighting against charges while simultaneously suing the wreckage of a Second World War bomber.

Brian and John Jasman are accused of excavating a B-26 Marauder-- an American bomber plane--from the depths of Watson Lake without a permit under the Yukon Territory's Historic Resources Act after they salvaged the nose piece in the spring.

The wreckage had sat at the bottom of the lake for more than 60 years after the plane, en route to defend Alaska, crashed in the Yukon territory.

Now, the warbird's fate is up in the air, again, caught in a power struggle between the brothers who say they have rightfully salvaged it, and the territorial government that says the plane is its to keep.

"That airplane has been there for 67 years on the bottom of the lake, all the steel parts have disintegrated and all that's left is the aluminum," said John Jasman, 48, in a telephone interview from his home in Edmonton. "Another 30 to 40 years, there is going to be nothing there to salvage. It doesn't make any sense to leave it there."

He would like to see it in a museum one day, with his family's name engraved on a plaque explaining who found it.

The unusual legal battle that follows could decide if wrecks fall under federal shipping laws, or territorial heritage laws.

The territory's position is simple: "(Military relics) are a finite resource," says Jeff Hunston, manager of the territory's heritage resources unit. "We'll determine what happens to it, since we own it."

He said salvagers usually recover these items and sell them on the lucrative warbirds' market to private collectors or museums far away from where they landed.

"Most jurisdictions wouldn't allow people to come in and essentially pillage their past, and move it somewhere else," said Hunston, also an archeologist. "Yukoners have been quite explicit that they want their heritage here in the Yukon, for the benefit of residents, as well as visitors."

But the Victoria-based lawyer for the brothers said they don't think the charge will stand up in court because the wreckage doesn't meet the definition of an archeological object under the act.

While the territory has taken the position the wreck is a heritage item and important to the history of the territory, the fact is the B-26 Marauder was a mass-produced item that is only connected to the Yukon because it was flying over the land when it crashed, said Darren Williams.

He added the Jasmans had confirmation from the U. S. air force the plane was abandoned.

"In their eyes, the aircraft became a wreck that, under the Shipping Act, becomes the property of the federal government," said Williams, who is a marine and admiralty expert.

"We're saying this is an issue of salvage and not one of heritage."

The case is expected to go ahead in court on July 14 on the excavating charge.

In the meantime, however, John and Brian Jasman have filed a suit against the aircraft in federal court for salvage rights. No court date has yet been set for that hearing.




grichards@theherald.canwest.com

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