Raising Shattered Plane Which Claimed 39 in Atlantic Collision Sunday, Nov 22 2009 

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:

FUSELAGE FOUND

“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.

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Airliner in Collision Sunday, Nov 22 2009 

Transcribed from The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, Australia, April 27, 1951, p. 3:

Airliner in Collision

43 Killed in Sea Plunge

 

NEW YORK, April 26 (A.A.P.).–Forty-three persons were killed yetserday when a Cuban DC4 airliner and a U.S. Navy training plane collided over Key West, Florida, and plunged into the sea.

There were no survivors.

The airliner carried 34 passengers and a crew of five. The Navy plane carried a crew of four.

Three hours after the collision Navy divers had recovered 16 bodies.

A U.S. Navy spokesman said the Navy plane was on an instrument-training flight.

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

HUNDREDS WATCHED

Hundreds of sunbathers saw the planes collide at 4,000 feet with a noise like an explosion.

Eyewitnesses said the Navy plane spun into the water immediately, but the airliner remained in the air for about 50 seconds.

Compania Cubana de Aviacion, which is affiliated with Pan-American World Airways, operated the airliner, which was on the Miami-Havana Run.

Airliner and Navy Plane Collide; 43 Persons Die Sunday, Nov 22 2009 

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 CREWMEN

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.