North Hollywood, CA Private Plane Crash, Oct 1955


North Hollywood, Calif., Oct. 18 (AP) -- A speed loving playboy, buzzing his plane over a crowded residential area, crashed into an apartment last night where a happy family was celebrating the christening of a baby.

The crash and searing explosion killed wealthy sportsman JOEL THORNE, a longtime companion of speed and violence; an 18-year-old bride and the newly baptized infant.

Nine other persons were injured, seven critically.

Eighteen others were in the apartment building.

THORNE, enroute to Las Vegas, Nev., crashed 12 minutes after takeoff from nearby Lockheed Air Terminal in an area normally reached in 30 seconds. The 40 year old son of a New York banking family buzzed so low over the neighborhood that scores of residents fled from their homes in alarm.

The playboy, long known for his stunting in the air, on the highway and in Hollywood night clubs, was burned beyond immediate identification in the fire that took half an hour to control.

The dead besides THORNE:
SHERYIL CAMILLE PRESTON, two months old. She had been baptized just hours before at St. Charles Roman Catholic Church.

MRS. BETTY WOLF, a newlywed, was alone in her apartment above the one in which the christening party was held. Her husband was at a naval reserve meeting.

The severely injured were mostly at the party in the dining room of MR. and MRS. MIKE PRESTON the parents of the infant. The mother said:

"The building shook and there was a big blast. I ran to the bedroom to get my baby. There was another blast."

In the wreckage of the plane searchers found THORNE'S will.

Most critically injured were PATRICIA and JOHN MARCHICA, 9 and 6, respectively. A neighbor said little JOHNNY'S face looked "like it was burned off." Their condition at North Hollywood Hospital was listed as "very poor." They were first cousins of the dead baby.

For THORNE, it was a violent end to a violent life. He had made many headlines with fast machines and fast living. He finished seventh in the 1939 Indianapolis 500 mile race, driving a car of his own design.

In 1946, he nearly lost his life in the crash of his souped-up motorcycle and the same year a racer he designed won the Indianapolis classic.

He was arrested several times, once for drunkenness, and once for failure to pay alimony to his estranged wife and another time for carrying a gun.

His name often was involved in Sunset Strip nightclub brawls and once his secretary sued him for $50,000, claiming that she was injured fighting off his advances.

He leaves a son, JONATHAN, 13, who lives with the widow in Valdosta, Ga. She won a decree of separate maintenance from him in 1946.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1955-10-19


I remember this...

Just stumbled across this article & I remember this! We lived a couple of blocks away at 4928 Carpenter Ave. The noise woke my Mom, Dad, two sisters & myself up. My Dad jumped into his car & drove over to see what happened. He wouldn't let me go with him. I was 8 years old at the time. When it came out in the paper my Dad said he knew Joel from years before when he'd raced cars. Very sad, may all involved RIP... Bill

Hello. I am a current

Hello. I am a current resident at the apartment building when I recently was informed about the tragedy. My condolences to you and your family!


My name is Richard Verola

Michael was my uncle. I'm the god father of the baby that died in the plane crash.

Please e mail me at my sons e mail



I'm a relative of all the people who were killed in the Preston house hold. Mike was my uncle, and I was the god father of the baby. If you are a relative if this family please reach out.

my e mail is above.

loss of my family

RIP my family