Kin Attempt to Identify Air Victims Monday, Nov 16 2009 

Transcribed from St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, FL, June 1, 1947, p. 1:

Kin Attempt to Identify Air Victims


PORT DEPOSIT, Md. — (AP) — Hushed relatives of the 53 dead in America’s most terrible commercial air disaster came in from all over the south and east yesterday to visit an improvised morgue and do their best to make identifications.

Not one of the victims of the crash Friday night of a southbound Eastern Air Lines DC-4 escaped mutilation when the big plane struck and shattered.

Forty-nin passengers one of them a baby in its mother’s arms, and four crew members were removed early yesterday to the drab and deserted commissary at Bainbridge naval training station.

There the kinfolks, navy doctors and dentists, and Eastern Air Lines’ medical examiners began the slow and gruesome business of making identification through dental work, personal trinkets or distinguishing body marks.

About 24 hours after the crash, only eight bodies had been positively identified.

The eight included: Mrs. H. Schrifrin, New York city; Mrs. Edit Stuart and her one-year-old son, Miami Beach; Donna Medling, Watertown, Conn.; Leo and Queenie Machtel, Miami; Theodore Lundstrom, the plane purser from Elmont, N.Y.; and Stewardess Helena O’Brien, New York city.

The DC-4 left Newark at 4:55 p. m. Friday night bound for Miami, and most of the dead were residents of the south or northeast.

The cause of the crash, whose death toll was the largest of any commercial airline disaster in United States history, remained much in doubt. Several witnesses, however, told investigators that the tail section of the four-engine ship came off before it crashed.

The civil aeronautics board announced in Washington it will decide this week on a date for public hearings on the disaster.

John Chamberlain, assistant director of the safety bureau, who saw the crash while flying over the Port Deposit area, said the hearings normally are held a week or 10 days after an accident.

Meanwhile, CAB investigators, Eastern Air Lines officials and a thousand men from the naval base spent the day looking over the scene and checking over the fragments which were all that remained of the DC-4.

Dr. R. C. Dodson, Cecil county medical examiner, expressed the hope that relatives would approve mass burial of the victims, possibly in nearby West Nottingham cemetary.

It appeared, however, that relatives of those positively identified would choose resting places elsewhere.

The kin of the victims began arriving in the early morning. They were taken to the hostess house at the training station, where they talked in low and awed tones of the catastrophe.

After a few hours they were called to go by bus to the commissary building, several hundred yards away.

There in a long room the bodies had been placed on trestle-like platforms about three inches from the floor. As rapidly as a body was identified it was marked with a number and doctors passed on to the next.


Structural Flaw Thought Cause of Airliner Crash Thursday, Oct 22 2009 

Transcribed from the Middletown Times Herald, Middletown, NY, 31 May 1947, p. 1. :

Structural Flaw Thought Cause of Airliner Crash

All 53 Aboard Miami-bound Plane Dead in Nation’s Worst Air Wreck

BAINBRIDGE–An Eastern Airlines official said today a structural defect may have caused the crash of a giant luxury liner which killed fifty-three persons last night in the nation’s worst commercial aviation disaster.

The four-engined airliner–one of Eastern’s Silver Fleet–plunged 6,000 feet out of a clear sky into swampy woods near here shortly before seven p.m., EDT.

The airlines official declined use of his name. He told a reporter after a meeting with Civil Aeronautics Authority officials in Washington this morning that eyewitness accounts of the crash led investigators to believe it may have been caused by a structural defect in the plane–a DC-4 bound from Newark to Miami.

Weather Ruled Out

As he added, however, that eyewitness accounts sometimes are “unreliable.” He said weather had been virtually ruled out as a factor in the crash.

At least three eyewitnesses to the airliner’s death plunge reported they thought parts of the tail section were torn loose before the plane fell.

All aboard perished, including a tiny infant whose decapitated body was found still clutched in its mother’s arms. The plane carried forty-nine passengers and four crew members. Many of the bodies were so badly mangled that identification was difficult, if not impossible.

It was by far the worst domestic disaster in the history of commercial aviation. The death toll equaled that of any heavier-than-air calamity in the world.

The airliner’s plunge into the swampy woods of rural Maryland was witnessed by a group of Civil Aeronautics Board investigators, who were flying back to Washington after studying the United Air Lines disaster at New York’s LaGuardia Airport just twenty-three hours earlier.

No Official Opinion

Within an hour, they were at the wreckage. They had no official opinion as to cause of the crash, pending a more extensive investigation.

A conference with Eastern officials was called in Washington this morning.

But it was known that the CAB authorities were much interested in the story of a young sailor, who told shocked bystanders at the wreckage that he saw a piece of the tail break from the fuselage just before the plane hit.

The CAB officials ordered a special search made for pieces of wreckage that might have come loose before the plane crashed.

They themselves had witnessed the beginnings of the plunge. From their plane they saw the airliner, which had taken off from Newark, N. J., at 6:04 p. m. EDT., flying along at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The sky was clear, and the plane apparently was proceeding safely on its non-stop trip to Miami.

The pilot, William Coney, one of Eastern’s top men, had reported “all is well” over Philadelphia.