Transcribed from the Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, WA, December 1, 1947, pages 1,4:
Brakes Didn’t Take Hold At All, Pilot Says
SEATTLE, Dec. 1–(AP)– Failure of hydraulic brakes to “take the slightest hold” after a normal landing caused the eight-death crash of a four-engined Alaska Airlines plane at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, Pilot James E. Farris, 37, of Seattle declared today.
Over and over again, as he sat on a hotel room bed, Farris, a veteran of 12 years of airline flying repeated:
“I can’t understand why those brakes didn’t take hold; not even the air-bottle emergency.”
Farris could think of only one possible reason for the failure; the 48-hours the big DC-4 stood in the rain at Yakutat, Alaska, while 42 spark plugs were changed.
“Maybe water got into the hydraulic lines and froze. But there was enough pressure to let the flaps down when we came in for a landing.”
Farris said the plane, landing 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 runway and crashed into an automobile on the highway below, killing a woman passenger in the car.
Farris said he had about 1,800 feet of the 5,610-foot runway left when “he knew for certain” that his brakes were gone.
“Dick (Co-pilot Richard F. Whiting, 29, of Anchorage) and I both had the foot brakes down tot he deck without a reaction. Then I yanked the emergency with both hands. Nothing happened. Just before we hit the car, I reached up with both hands and yanked all the ignition loose.
“When we hit and the right wing cracked, I saw the flash of fire reflected in my window. A tree was jammed up against the right window and Dick and I both got out the left window.
“Someone yelled, ‘there’s a woman in that car.’ The car was jammed right in front of the butt o the wing where it joins the fuselage. I saw the blind woman (Mrs. Stella Pearl Jones, Seattle) trying to open the right front door. I dived into the auto through a rear door and reached for her.
“I yelled at her but she kept crawling under the wing and straight into the flames. Then the whole car blossomed in a blaze and I had to get out.
“The weather had absolutely nothing to do with the crackup. There was no overshooting or undershooting of the field. I Just had no brakes.”
Farris said he had checked the hydraulic system at the last stop, Annette Island, near Ketchikan.
“The hydraulic system and brakes are always the last items on the check list. They were O.K. at Annette.”