Memorial banners are popping up around Estevan's major streets as the community honours the victims of a plane crash dating back almost 80 years.

Twenty-one men died when a plane went down in what is now the Boundary Dam area south of Estevan on Sept. 15, 1946. The victims included several wartime pilots of World War II.

"They were taking the airplane from Estevan, the Air Commonwealth Training Base that was just south of Estevan at the time, and they were flying them down to Minot and then they would come back on a transport aircraft back to the base to continue doing that until all the aircraft were gone," said military historian Craig Bird. "And after they had sent the first crew down, they went to come back and on their way back was when the crash happened here."

Bird said the cause of the crash was related to an elevator lock that was on the plane. 

"There's control surfaces on the aircraft that when they landed and parked the plane they put these locks on so that the wind doesn't move the control surfaces. And before flight they're supposed to go around to check and remove all of these locks so that all of the control surfaces are free to be able to fly," Bird said.

"And unfortunately one of them was left on when they left which didn't cause any issues when they took off but when they went to land they weren't able to land properly, and that's what ended up causing the crash they figured."

Bird said the timing of the accident was unfortunate.

"They were all veterans and survived the war, and then came back to do some additional work and finish up with the war effort, and died in a peacetime accident," Bird said. "Having survived all of the trauma of war to die in an accident is pretty tragic."

The banners started going up on Estevan's major city streets on Tuesday, and they have a similar look to the ones that went up in November around Remembrance Day. You'll find them on 4th Street, King Street, Kensington Avenue, and Souris Avenue North.

"All 21 of them, so they all have their photos and a little bit of information and where they're from on the banners so that people when they're driving around can have a look and see," Bird said. 

Bird said the hope was to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash last year, but COVID-19 restrictions prevented that from happening, so they're doing it this year instead.

"Basically commemorate something that really wasn't well-known that it happened here in Estevan. And give the chance to the families of these servicemen to come out to Estevan just to be recognized and to be honoured."

"The South East Military Museum here in Estevan as well as the (Estevan) Legion, are kind of dedicated to remembering the service members, and not just the people that were killed but also the people who had survived the war and came back and built up our communities to what they are today," Bird added. "I think it's just right that we honour all of these people that had served and are serving with the military from the south east."

There will be a more formal event to honour the crash coming up on July 8 that will include some presentations with the South East Military Museum and will incorporate some planes at the Estevan Airport.