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Into the Abyss: How a Deadly Plane Crash Changed the Lives of a Pilot, a Politician, a Criminal and a Cop [Hardcover]

Carol Shaben
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 16 2012

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people. Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges. Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly--a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly. Larry Shaben, the author's father and Canada's first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature. After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs--a decision that profoundly impacted the men's survival. As they fought through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth and status were erased and each man was forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence. The survivors forged unlikely friendships and through them found strength and courage to rebuild their lives. Into the Abyss is a powerful narrative that combines in-depth reporting with sympathy and grace to explore how a single, tragic event can upset our assumptions and become a catalyst for transformation.


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Review

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
FINALIST 2013 – Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize
WINNER 2013 – Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

“With Into the Abyss Carol Shaben gives us an astonishing true story of catastrophe and redemption. Shaben writes from the inside out, as in the best non-fiction, creating a nuanced and tightly braided portrait of four men and their shared trauma that is by turns terrifying and deeply humane. Every line in this uniquely Canadian story rings true.”
—John Vaillant, author of The Tiger
 
Into the Abyss is a shot of storytelling adrenalin, taut and riveting and poised beautifully between pure action and thought. An extraordinary reading experience.” 
—Charles Foran, author of Mordecai: The Life & Times
 
“Carol Shaben is a meticulous reporter and, most importantly, a remarkably empathetic one. In Into the Abyss, she combines these skills masterfully to explore the full emotional impact of a horrific accident. The drifter she never met is as alive and complex in this story as her beloved father, and together with the other two survivors they weave a powerful tale about the limits of human resilience in the face of tragedy.”
—Chris Turner, author of The Leap and The Geography of Hope
 
“When a plane crashes in the mountains of northern Alberta, six people die, and four men of wildly different backgrounds survive—including a criminal on his way to court, who ends up rescuing his fellow passengers. But what makes this tale so remarkable is the meticulous way in which the author maps the human consequences of the tragedy: how it forged deep bonds among the survivors, and transformed their lives. This book leads us into classic, nail-biting Jon Krakauer territory—and then breaks new ground.”
—Marni Jackson, co-director of the Banff Centre Mountain and Wilderness Writing Program
 
“In her page-turning reconstruction of a small plane crash and its large aftermath, Carol Shaben vividly charts the emotional flight paths of four survivors, each an archetypal character entangled in a fateful web of incompetence and heroism, dumb luck and deliverance, guilt and salvation, trauma and transformation. Why, for some, does a deep shock act like a wake-up call; for others, nothing but an inexorable spiral into the abyss? In the end, the strangeness of true stories continues to rival fiction.”
—James FitzGerald, author of What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son’s Quest to Redeem the Past

About the Author

CAROL SHABEN was nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards, including Best New Magazine Writer, and won 2 of them, a Gold Medal for Investigative Reporting and a Silver Medal for Politics and Public Interest. A former international trade consultant and CBC writer/broadcaster, CAROL was 22, living and working as a journalist in the Middle East, when the crash occurred. She learned of the event, and her father's survival, reading a local newspaper.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling! Nov. 12 2012
By Jordana
Format:Hardcover
An amazing story incredibly well told. Carol Shaben transports her readers to a time and place while shaping the men in this tragedy with depth and humanity. I couldn't put it down.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!! Oct. 21 2012
Format:Hardcover
I loved this book! It was compelling and beautifully written - I couldn't put it down. The author has taken a story I knew only from newspaper headlines and crafted a compassionate, gripping, thorough and seamless biography of the both the event, the circumstances leading up to it, and the lives of the four survivors both before and after. This book left me very grateful to the author for having written it and left me wanting more
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into "pilot error" June 13 2013
Format:Hardcover
This book certainly deserves the high praise for literary merit and insight into the human condition noted by most reviewers. As added bonus, "Into the Abyss" provides valuable perspective on why it's so difficult to pin down the "cause" of an air crash (or other complex accident) involving "pilot error" (or "operator error"). These terms were excised from the lexicon of official investigations a long time ago in favour of euphemisms such as "findings as to causes" or "human factors". But, whatever words used to explain how and why an accident happened, effective measures to prevent recurrence start with substantive description of underlying circumstances.

In the case of the crash at the center of this story circumstances were complicated by clashing requirements of safe operation and pressure to cut corners--- on Eric Vogel, the pilot, to preserve his job or indeed his career; on Dale Wells, the airline operator, to keep his business profitable or indeed to keep his business at all. Moreover, the Canadian Aviation Safety Board, the investigative authority--established just a month earlier, failed to do its homework under pressure "to cement [its] role as a powerful and effective watchdog" over aviation safety. As it turned out, Vogel lost his career, Wells lost his airline and the Canadian Aviation Safety Board started a downward spiral leading to its dissolution five years later.

Shaben skilfully weaves this background into the central drama of four survivors coping in very different ways with a transformative event in their lives. Thus, readers primarily interested in an absorbing narrative of survival and redemption will be additionally rewarded with insight into the difficulties of sorting out "human factors" behind accidents involving the operation of complex machinery. Those primarily concerned with how and why complex systems fail will be additionally rewarded by an inspiring human story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must read book May 8 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I am a member of Civil Air Search and Rescue and I found this book to be excellently written. Carol has shown the point of view of everyone involved with this tragedy. I felt it showed all the frustrations involved not only from the Search and Rescue side but from the airline, the pilot, the survivors, the target airport and the families.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page turner March 11 2013
Format:Hardcover
I was given this book and as a dedicated non-fiction reader, I reluctantly started it. I read it in one sitting! It was well written and gripping. I appreciated knowing the background and then the aftermath of the four main characters. I think the night of the crash will remain in my memory forever. It is obvious Ms Shaben has the gift of excellent writing. It is obvious she spent a lot of time on researching the incident, the details (both technical and personal), and the effects of the crash. For anyone who wishes a glimpse into Northern Canada real life, read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book March 1 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Good easy read.
A must read for pilots.
Outlines the consequences of decision making gone wrong.
Great food for thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful! Dec 15 2012
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Story Description:

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people. Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges. Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly - a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly. Larry Shaben, the author's father and Canada's first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature. After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs - a decision that profoundly impacted the men's survival. As they fought through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth and status were erased and each man was forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence. The survivors forged unlikely friendships and through them found strength and courage to rebuild their lives. Into the Abyss is a powerful narrative that combines in-depth reporting with sympathy and grace to explore how a single, tragic event can upset our assumptions and become a catalyst for transformation.

My Review:

Into the Abyss is the true account of a plane crash that occurred on October 19th, 1984 piloted by then twenty-four-year-old, Erik Vogel. Erik worked for Wapiti Airlines, a small outfit that flew daily flights around the Alberta area, over Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife and often had the same passengers each week.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent read
Published 4 days ago by Todd Sexton
4.0 out of 5 stars very engaging
This is a story that deserves to be told. It relates a rich and tragic piece of aviation history of Alberta as well as the intimate changes worked in the lives of the survivors.
Published 4 months ago by Aydan Dunnigan
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, highly recommend
This was a great book, scary, eye opening and filled with the dreams and passions of four men given the chance to start fresh in their lives and make a difference for themselves. Read more
Published 4 months ago by April House
5.0 out of 5 stars Haven't read it but my wife loved it.
I guess I shouldn't make a third party review however my wife loved it and told me that I would love it too. I plan to read it soon.
Published 4 months ago by Ace Man
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
I was involved in Alberta aviation when this happened & recalled it clearly. The book is well written & accurately depicts the risks and lifestyle of a relatively inexperienced... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Prairie Chicken
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating story
Being an Albertan and knowing some of the people involved made this reading even harder to put down. Well written, highly recommend.
Published 6 months ago by CHINOOK
4.0 out of 5 stars The total experience before and after the crash.
I heard the author give a presentation on this book last fall and it lives up to its billing. The way that the event of the crash changed the lives of all the characters from the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by maniq2
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional
Not only is this a remarkable story of personal struggle and physical survival, but the author has managed to tell it in a way that is totally engaging, all-encompassing and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by County Boy
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Especially recommended for those facing their own "dark night of the soul" and /or those who grew up in Northern Alberta and remember some of the characters in this... Read more
Published 7 months ago by GJP
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done!
A poignant journey of how four men form a bond out of a traumatic situation. The story is one that all young aviators should read to learn the challenges that they can often face.
Published 9 months ago by Tom Machum
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