Transcribed from the Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, WA, December 1, 1947, pages 1, 4:
Eight Dead in Seattle Crash; Blame Brakes
Twenty-One Escape from Flaming Wreckage of Alaska Plane; Blind Woman Dies In Car Hit By Ship
SEATTLE, Dec. 1–(AP)– The pilot of a four-engined Alaska Airlines transport plane which crashed and burned at the Seattle-Tacoma airport blamed the crash today on failure of the hydraulic brakes to “take the slightest hold.” Eight persons died and two others were in critical condition as a result of the accident late yesterday.
The pilot, Capt. James E. Farris, 37, of Seattle, told the Seattle Times that the DC-4 plane landed at a speed of approximately 100 miles an hour, “rolled like it was on a bed of ball-bearings” until it leaped a 60-foot embankment at the end of the airport runway. It crashed into an automobile on the highway below, killing a blind woman in the car. The plane was flying from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle.
It had 28 persons aboard, 25 passengers and a crew of three.
The list of dead rose to eight with the death in the New Renton hospital of 44-year-old Jonas E. Johnson of Palmer, Alaska. His 21-month-old son, Gordon, died yesterday in the plane’s wreckage. Mrs. Johnson had been treated for burns and released from the hospital.
Two Still Critical
Two passengers were reported in critical condition at the New Renton hospital and two were listed as unsatisfactory at Harborview County hospital.
The others had been released after treatment or were recovering from minor burns and bruises in the hospital.
Twenty-six of the 28 aboard the big plane scrambled from door and emergency exits or were pulled from the flames by rescuers. All, however, were seared by the gasoline-fed flames that flashed through the fuselage. Four of the rescued died later.
The latest casualties were Johnson and the plane’s stewardess, Miss Reba Monk of Santa Monica, Calif., who was credited by survivors with having led many of the passengers to safety.
The other dead are:
Fred Smith, Tacoma, Wash., who died eight hours after the crash.
Leslie Howe, 33, Seattle and Spokane, Wash., a carpenter, died in the hospital.
Ole Ring, Anchorage, Alaska, died of burns and injuries.
Mrs. Virginia Stitsworth, 33, Tacoma, entertainer known professionally as Virginia Grafton.
Gordon Johnson, 21-month-old son of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Johnson, Palmer, Alaska.
Mrs. Pearl Stella Jones, 43, Seattle, blind woman trapped in the car which the big transport smashed as it careened off the field into the intersection of the Des Moines, Wash., highway and 188th St.
Bodies of two of the dead were not recovered until nearly four hours after the crash because of the intense heat emitting from the wreckage.
The plane, a DC-4, crashed only a few minutes after it had been turned back from an attempted landing at Seattle’s Boeing Field by fog. Two airport employees in the control tower at the Seattle-Tacoma field said the ceiling radioed to Pilot James Evan Farris, Seattle, as the plane settled through the overcast was “600 feet with one and one-quarter miles visibility.” Three minutes after the crash, a special reading showed the ceiling at “400 feet with three-quarters of a mile visibility.”
Harold K. Philips, chief of the non-scheduled maintenance division for the Civil Aeronautics Administration, sped to the scene for official inquiry and said:
“Apparently the pilot ground-looped when he saw he was going off the runway.”
Appeared Down Safely
Mrs. Jones, a widow and mother of a 9-year-old boy, was riding with a neighbor, Ira Van Volkenburg when the plane came plunging down a steep bank and swept the car across the road. Van Volkenburg said he escaped by kicking out a window and then groped in the smashed car without finding Mrs. Jones. He was driven away seconds later as the plane burst into flames and then was wracked by an explosion.
Eye-witnesses said the plane had made an apparent safe landing when it suddenly turned and went broadside over the bank at the end of the runway.
An outboard engine struck the bank as the plane sagged and watchers at the control tower said it “popped into flames.” Then it flared again as it flattened Von Volkenburg’s automobile and finally was sheathed in flame as the fuel tanks exploded.
The liner had been dogged by bad weather since it took off from Anchorage, Alaska, last Thursday. During its flight from Alaska it was delayed at Yakutat and Annette Island, near Ketchikan. It had taken off from Annette at 9:30 a. m. yesterday.
Alaska Airlines spokesman said it was the company’s first fatal crash in 10 years operation.
Leon D. Cuddeback, safety investigator for the Civil Aeronautics Board, said the airline is a regularly scheduled operator in Alaska but is non-scheduled on flights to the states.
He said an intensive check into the tragedy would be opened today.