Transcribed from The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA, March 2, 1962, p. 1:

Tides Hampering Hunt for Victims

Jetliner Toll 95 as Plane Falls in Bay


NEW YORK (AP)–Searchers battled the cold and darkness of Jamaica Bay Thursday night trying to recover the bodies of 95 persons who died when a coast-to-coast jet air liner faltered on take-off from Idlewild Airport and dived in the water. It was the nation’s worst single-aircraft disaster.

More than 1 hours after the American Airlines jetliner plunged nose first into the bay and disintegrated in explosion and flames, only 49 bodies had been recovered. There were no survivors.

By late Thursday night, the tide from the Atlantic Ocean had come in and gone out again, and prospects were that policemen–some in hipboots, some in boats–would have to pursue their mean task all night. Artificial lights cast an eerie pall over the watery crash site about three miles from Idlewild.


The plane was American’s flight No. 1, which took off from Idlewild at 10:07 a.m. for Los Angeles, and crashed three minutes later. It was a late model Boeing 707 Astro-Jet, expressly designed for speedier take-offs from air ports surrounded by residential areas.

Curiously, apparently no one on the ground saw the actual crash in a remote area of shallow water and reedy marsh, although a number of persons saw the plane going down and heard it explode. But another airliner that took off moments later afforded its passengers and crew a ghastly birds-eye view of the disaster.

A rescue force of 300 to 400 police and firemen was mobilized on the remote crash scene within half an hour, in a remarkable display of rescue alertness.

But in the words of patrolman Arthur Ruddick, one of the first on the scene: “There was no one to rescue.”

Rescue then gave way to recovery, with searchers carrying ashore pitiful scraps of human possessions, sodden from the brackish waters of the plane’s grave. Few of the bodies recovered were intact.

The scene of the crash was about three miles across an arm of Jamaica Bay from Idlewild Airport, which is on the south shore of Long Island within the city limits of New York.

The plane cleared a train trestle and a parkway in its take-off, then came down about a mile away from the roadway in the shallow waters of another inlet. It was so shattered in the crash that the largest piece of the $5.5-million plane visible was no bigger than a small, compact automobile.

So primitive was the area of the crash scene that it serves as a wild life sanctuary.


Clearly visible from the scene, however, were the skyscraper towers of lower Manhattan, glittering in a bright winter’s sun.

Beneath these very towers about noon–less than two hours after the crash–millions of New Yorkers roared acclaim for astronaut John H. Glenn Jr., back from outer space and the hero of a ticker-tape parade.

But on the crash scene, as searchers poked through the shallow waters, the broken bits of the jetliner rose from the inlet in grim reminder that man may conquer space but never circumstance.