Transcribed from The Lawrence Daily Journal-World, Lawrence, Kansas, January 7, 1960, page 1:
Victims of Crash Placed in School
BOLIVIA, N.C. (AP) — Three rows of shrouded bodies, victims of 1960’s first airliner crash, lay in the Southport High School gymnasium today awaiting identification by relatives and an FBI fingerprint team.
Thirty-four persons were aboard the National Airlines DC6B which apparently disintegrated in the air and cast wreckage and bodies over a 20-acre area early Wednesday. None survived.
Searchers found 32 bodies by nightfall in the plowed fields and marshy piney woods where the New York-to-Miami flight fell.
Darkness and foul weather delayed search for the remaining two victims overnight.
C. Lester Trotter, an assistant director of the FBI, came here from Washington with a 4-man team to help identify the 29 passengers and 5 crew members on the plane.
Relatives also began arriving to identify and claim their dead.
The FBI agents definitely identified 9 of the 32 bodies.
Coroner L. B. Bennett said autopsies would be performed in an effort to determine what caused the deaths.
The plane “apparently disintegrated in the air from an unknown cause,” said John L. Morris, a National Airlines vice president. “The plane was in good order and was in the hands of a veteran crew. There was nothing from the pilot prior to the crash that would indicate any malfunction.”
However, the altimeter in the wreckage of the cockpit showed an elevation of 1,500 feet. And instruments indicated the right wing may have been down as if the plane was banking.
It appeared that the crew and passengers may have known the plane was in difficulty. A National Airlines spokesman said, “judging from the fact that some of the victims had on life jackets, it can be presumed that the captain had informed the passengers of an emergency situation and was trying to make an emergency landing.”
Four bodies wore vest-type life jackets and several victims were strapped to their seats with safety belts.
There was also an indication that the pilot might have been seeking a refuge in the murky, rainy night.
A chunk of metal was found at Kure Beach, 25 miles east of the crash scene, or about five minutes away at the plane’s normal cruising speed. The craft’s southbound route would not have crossed both Kure Beach and Bolivia.
“It was very definitely part of the aluminum skin of an airplane, presumably this plane,” said an NAL spokesman about the Kure Beach discovery.
The engineer’s log, found in the 25-foot nose section of the wreckage, bore a notation that the flight had checked with the Wilmington Airport at 2:07 a.m. Twenty-four minutes later the crew reported the flight was south of Wilmington, thus beginning the 550-mile leg over the Atlantic to Florida.
A stopped watch on one of the victims set the time of the crash at 2:45 a.m.