Transcribed from the Reading Eagle, Reading, PA, January 6, 1960, pages 1,39:
34 Lose Lives in Airliner Crash
New York-to-Miami Plane Demolished in North Carolina
Craft was Carrying 29 Vacationists, Crew of 5
Bolivia, N.C., Jan. 6 (AP) — A National Airlines night coach flying non-stop from New York to Miami crashed with 34 persons aboard before dawn today in swampy woodlands near here.
“There will not be any survivors,” said Deputy Sheriff H. G. Ratcliff.
Seventeen bodies had been recovered late this morning.
Reporters on the scene said the big plane appeared to have exploded in the air and debris and bodies were scattered over an area of 20 acres.
The four-engined ship, making one of two substitute flights carrying vacation-bound passengers originally booked on a cancelled jet flight, struck earth 2 1/2 miles southwest of Bolivia, a hamlet 25 miles southwest of Wilmington.
The other substitute plane, an Electra turbo-prop plane, reached Miami safely with 76 passengers and crew members.
The plane that crashed carried 29 passengers and a crew of five.
Its passengers included retired Navy Vice Adm. Edward Orrick McDonnell, who held a Congressional Medal of Honor and numerous other decorations for World War II service. He commanded an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.
Most of the passengers were easterners, bound for vacations at Florida’s sunny resorts.
The plane had been flying through rainy weather.
The watch on the wrist of a crew member found in the cockpit was stopped at 2:45 a.m., indicating that the crash occurred some 14 minutes after the pilot reported in by radio. He indicated no trouble at that time.
The possibility that passengers were aware of the trouble before the crash was seen in the fact that a number of the victims were clad in Mae West life preservers. The life preservers on some had been inflated.
A piece of the wing and most of the ripped fuselage fell in a field, while the cockpit struck in woods 50 yards away.
The plane crashed on the small farm of Richard Randolph. His wife, Letzie, was awakened by the noise and she awakened her husband.
“We heard an engine going chug-a-chug,” he said, “like it was cutting in and out. Then it sounded like tin doors and windows ripping off. Then there was a big boom like dynamite.”
Randolph arose and looked out the window. He could see nothing but a small flame which soon went out. He returned to bed.
Early this morning, their small son, McArthur, went to the field to see what happened and found the plane. The Negro farmer drove to Bolivia, the nearest phone, and an operator connected him with the New Hanover Airport at Wilmington. He then waited in Bolivia until highway patrolmen arrived about 7:30 a.m. and guided them to the scene.
Emergency and rescue vehicles rushed to the scene. A light rain fell as rescuers searched for bodies.
A number of bodies lay among scattered luggage and pieces of the ship.
Lester L. Edwards, a forest ranger, said it appeared to him that the plane might have exploded in flight. This opinion was shared also by Doyle Howard, a reporter on the scene from the Wilmington News.
The FBI sent its special disaster squad to the scene. This was requested by Charles Sharp, National’s vice president. The squad of three fingerprint experts has identified more than 80 per cent of the victims of airliner crashes it has investigated.
The plane was manned by a veteran crew. Capt. Dale Southard, 46, the pilot, flew bombers for a ferry service during World War II. He was born in Nebo, Mo. R. L. Hentzel, 32, co-pilot, came with NAL in 1954 after five years in the Air Force. He was a Cleveland, Ohio, native. R. R. Halleckson, 35, flight engineer, joined the company in May 1953. During World War II he served on B29 bombers. He was born in St. Paul, Minn.
A NAL plane, less than two months ago, crashed into the Gulf of MExico, killing 42 persons aboard. It was on a flight from Miami to New Orleans. Most of the bodies and wreckage remains unrecovered.
Leave a Response »