Transcribed from The Free-Lance Star, Fredericksburg, VA, March 1, 1962, p. 1,3:

95 Are Believed Dead in Crash of Jet Airliner

Craft Goes Down in Marsh Off Shore of Long Island

 

NEW YORK (AP) — An American Airlines jet liner bound for Los Angeles crashed and burned in a marsh off Long Island’s south shore today with apparent loss of all 95 persons aboard.

The airline listed one of the passengers as W. Alton Jones, board chairman of the Cities Service Co., and a golfing and quail shooting companion of former President Eisenhower.

Ironically, the $5.5 million plane crashed in sparkling clear weather, the first fair day after almost a week of rain and fog that had delayed or canceled hundreds of flights.

Coast Guardsmen said they found no trace of survivors.

The tragedy came just as the city was about to give a joyful welcome to Marine Lt. Col. John H. Glenn Jr., the astronaut who orbited the earth.

HALF IN WATER

The plane, with 87 passengers and 8 crew members aboard, had taken off from Idlewild Airport for Los Angeles at 10:07 a.m. Glenn was due here at nearby LaGuardia Airport at 11:15 a.m.

The aircraft, a modernized Boeing 707 known as an Astrojet, crashed in a swampy area known as Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay off Far Rockaway in Queens. The area is just off the southern shore of Long Island.

The plane was half in the water and half on the marsh.

Huge clouds of smoke rose from the wreckage.

Witnesses said the plane climbed to about 700 feet from Idlewild, then turn left and plunged at a steep angle.

Some witnesses said they saw flames coming from the plane before the crash. Others did not, but the plane was in flames immediately after the impact.

The plane was known as “Flight No. 1.”

By 11 a.m., the report from Coast Guardsmen at the scene was: “There is now only floating, smoking debris in the water.”

Police at Idlewild said at the same time:

“Apparently there were no survivors.”

The crash scene was about three miles from the Idlewild control tower.

CREW SEES CRASH

The crew of a Mohawk Airlines plane that had taken off immediately after the Astrojet witnessed the crash and radioed an alarm back to the airport.

William Martin, a member of the Broad Channel volunteer fire department, said: “There was an awfully loud explosion that actually shook the fire house building a half mile from the scene. Then a few minutes later we could see heavy black smoke–a very thick column of it. It went about 150 feet into the air.”

The Broad Channel and other fire companies sent ambulances and fire apparatus.

Coast Guard helicopters and a city fireboat converged on the scene.

POLICE DEPARTMENT

Police Commissioner Michael J. Murphy sent a large detachment of police, including 55 who had been assigned to Manhattan for the Glenn parade.

Also assigned to the crash were 125 detectives who had been attending a session on narcotics at the Police Academy.

The Civil Aeronautics Board office at Idlewild dispatched its agents.

Three alarms were sounded for the fire erupting from the plane.

The fire was reported under control at 10:50 a.m.–but by that time only wreckage remained.

All eight crew members in the crash were Californians. A spokesman for the line said the crew had arrived in New York from Boston this morning to make the West Coast flight.

REPORTS FROM SCENE

Martin gave this account on the basis of reports from the scene by two-way radio:

“The rescue workers are walking out into the marshes about a block or block and a half to try and find survivors and pick up bodies. They tell me they sink into the water about up to their boot tops and sometimes to their knees. Since it is low tide that is a break, because otherwise they would sink much deeper.

“The fire is out and a third alarm was sounded about 11:15 a.m. as a call for more men to help in rescue operations. We understand the plane blew up when it hit the marshes and blew into many small pieces. However some reports say large sections of the plane are still intact.”

Lottie Lennon, Broad Channel, said her house shook “like an explosion.”

“I never heard anything like it,” said said. [sic] “I though it was the house next door.

“I was afraid to open the door. I went upstairs and looked out the window. The sky was filled with heavy black smoke. I woke up my son, Desmond, who works nights for United Air Lines at Idlewild. Desmond was in the Air Force. He knows all about planes. He got dressed right away and went out into the bay to try to help.”

Mrs. Lennon said the smoke rose from a spot in the swampland about a mile from her home at the corner of Fourth Rd. and Cross Bay Blvd.

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