Transcribed from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA, August 30, 1948, p. 1:

Airliner Bound For Minneapolis Runs Into Cliff

NWA Pilot Living Near Scene Believes Lightning Struck Craft, Causing It to Break Up in Air


WINONA, Minn., Aug. 29 (AP)–Thirty-six persons were killed Sunday when a Northwest Airlines passenger plane crashed into a 500-foot Mississippi river bluff during a severe storm.

Walter Haeussinger, Winona police dispatcher, said the 33 passengers and three crew members were dead.

Captain Jack Volkel, a NWA pilot who lives in Winona, and who was one of the first at the scene of the crash, said he thought lightning had struck the plane. He said it appeared the plane had broken up in the air.

The plane, a Martin 2-0-2, had left Chicago at 5:50 p. m. (Pittsburgh time) and was due in Minneapolis at 7:30 p. m.

The crash occurred on Sutters Ridge, between Winona and Fountain City, Wis., on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi river.

Parts of the wreckage were found in swamplands along the river. A few bits also landed in a ball park at Winona, seven miles south of the crash scene.


Haeussinger, executive editor Gordon Closway and reporter William White of the Winona Republican-Herald were among the first to reach the wreckage.

Closway said he counted 10 dead in the plane. One was a woman still holding a baby in her arms.

The pilot, Captain Robert Johnson of St. Paul, was still in the nose of the ship, Closway said.

“Bodies were scattered over a mile area,” Closway said. “We didn’t find all the bodies, but I don’t see how anyone could have lived through it.”

Closway said it took them nearly two hours to reach the crash scene after they arrived at Fountain City.


The crash is near the Scenic River route of the Burlington railway on one side is the river which is bordered with swamp lands. Then beyond the right-of-way area are the bluffs, many of them with sheer sides.

Mrs. Charles Guenther, a farm woman, said she and her husband witnessed the crash from their automobile while returning to fountain city.

“We were returning home from Winona,” Mrs. Guenther said. “When we saw the plane rolling like a barrel. Some pieces of the plane fell off. It was raining hard but we didn’t think there was much wind.

“Then it crashed into a large wooded area.”

The plane’s crew included Dave Brenner, co-pilot, Minneapolis, and Mary Ungs, stewardess, Minneapolis.