Transcribed from Rome News-Tribune, Rome, GA, April 26, 1951, p. 1:
Jumbled Wreckage On Ocean Floor
Raising Shattered Plane Which Claimed 39 in Atlantic Collision
KEY WEST, Fla., April 26–(INS)–Parts of the shattered Cuban airliner which carried 39 persons to death in a collision with a Navy plane occupied by four fliers, were raised from the Atlantic Ocean off Key West today and for the first time Navy salvage crews reported finding the major part of the Navy plane.
Twenty-three bodies, torn or mangled by the crash at 5,000 feet and then by the impact with the water, were recovered by mid-morning.
Twenty-one of them were from the DC-14 airliner which was bound from Miami to Havana Wednesday when the crash occurred in full view of dozens of sunbathers.
Two bodies were from the Navy 8NB training plane, which was on an instrument flight when it collided with the larger aircraft and exploded.
A Navy patrol boat reported it was “sure” it had found the Navy plane shortly before 10 a.m. EST about a quarter mile west of where the airliner lies and directly off the Navy pier.
A diving barge moved to the spot in an attempt to find the bodies of the two remaining Navy victims.
Divers said most of the passengers of the tourist-filled DC-4 were strapped to their seats with safety belts, an indication that some possible warning had been given them before the crash.
Diver first class Jim Atkinson, of Jacksonville, Fla., who went down to the battered ship yesterday and again this morning, said:
“There is still a big chunk of fuselage down there. I figure if we don’t find more bodies under it, we probably have got everything there is.”
A Navy court of inquiry was to open at the naval station in an attempt to determine why the accident occurred. A Navy spokesman said:
“We willt ry to determine what happened by questioning all the eye-witnesses we can find. All we know now is that the two planes crashed. Which one hit the other is something we haven’t found out yet.”
Salvage workers aboard a Navy barge said two of the airliner’s engines were telescoped into one mass of twisted metal and one of the plane’s wings apparently was sheared off by the collision.
One witness, Ted Liesem, who was sunbathing at the beach, said:
“I saw the little plane and the big plane flying very close together . . . then they seemed to scrape. The little plane exploded and fell. The big plane flew on. Suddenly a wing fell loose and the airliner dropped nose down into the water.”
Frank Rogers, a Key West carpenter, paddled a mile out to sea on a surfboard immediately after the crash to look for survivors. He said:
“All I saw was debris . . . women’s pocketbooks, a wallet, and floating bits of women’s clothing and shoes.