Transcribed from St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL, April 26, 1951, p. 1:

Airliner and Navy Plane Collide; 43 Persons Die


KEY WEST — (UP) — A Cuban airliner and a Navy plane practicing “blind” flying rammed together in a cloudless sky over Key West yesterday and 43 persons perished when the two shattered aircraft plummeted into the ocean.

There were no survivors.

Thirty-four passengers, including 28 North Americans, and a Cuban crew of five went down with the Cubana Airlines DC-6 in 80 feet of water within sight of hundreds of horrified bathers in Key West’s public beach.

Four Navy flyers perished in their twin-engined Beechcraft which fluttered into the ocean “like a falling leaf,” an observer said.

Captain R. S. Quackenbush Jr., commander of the big U. S. Naval Installations here, said the Navy plane was “engaged in an instrument training flight.”

“We don’t know if the crew was flying blind at the time of the collision,” Quackenbush said, “but when they do, one of the pilots has clear visual observation at all times.”

THERE WAS ONE unconfirmed report from an unidentified witness that the passenger airliner was smoking before the two planes hit in the air.

The four-engine airliner, en route from Miami to Havana, smacked into the Atlantic about 1,000 yards offshore from the bathing beach, within sight of the plush Casa Marina tourist hotel.

The Navy rushed crash boats, a barge and Navy divers to the scene from the Navy submarine base about two miles away, where President Truman has his vacation White House.

The chopped up bodies of two women and a man were recovered by the first boats reaching the scene and two Navy divers operating from the barge hooked a line to the wreckage and recovered several other bodies.

MEANWHILE, the Navy fished out the bodies of two flyers from the Navy plane which had a wing sheared off by the force of the collision.

The big airliner of Compania Cubana de Aviacion, a subsidiary of Pan American Airways, left Miami at 11:30 a. m. with a gay group of passengers bound for Havana. It was due to pass over Key West about 11:50 a. m.

At 11:59 a. m., Naval authorities said, came he shattering collision between 4,000 and 6,000 feet altitude.


Names of the four crewmen of the Navy training plane that collided with a commercial airliner over Key West Yesterday were announced last night at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station.

They were:

Lt. (jg) Robert Lawlor Stuart, Pensacola, the co-pilot.

Ensign Eugene Samuel Bardslay, Spokane, Wash., co-pilot.

Midshipman Francis Lavelle Ready, Cold Springs Harbor, Long Island, N. Y.

Aviation Radioman 1/c Martin C. Gasser, La Valle, Wis.