Whittier, CA Commuter Plane And Light Plane Collide, Jan 1975
L. B. PLANE, AIRLINER HIT; 14 DIE.
BODIES RAIN ON SCHOOL.
Fourteen persons were killed Thursday when a twin-engine commuter airliner and a light plane from a Long Beach flying school collided over Whittier, raining bodies and debris on a school yard where students were watching a basketball game.
No one on the ground was reported injured but several homes were damaged when twisted hunks of metal fell over a 2 1/2 square-block residential area in county territory just west of Whittier.
Authorities said the crash came at 4:10 p.m. when a Golden West Airlines turboprop De Havilland Otter carrying 10 passengers and two crew members collided with a single-engine Cessna 150 carrying a pilot and a student pilot.
The Cessna, leased to Cessnair Aviation, Inc., 3501 Lakewood Blvd., had taken off from Long Beach Airport about 3:30 p.m. on a training flight.
The commuter plane was on a 60-mile non-instrument trip, Flight 281, from Ontario International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. The pilot was using visual rules, airline officials said.
The bodies of the victims were taken to the county coroner's office in Los Angeles.
The coroner's office released a list of the victims shortly before noon today.
The dead included Cessnair's chief pilot WILLIAM VANDERLINDEN, and student MIKE GORDON.
At a basketball game at Katherine Edwards Intermediate School, where about 300 persons were watching an interschool game, spectators heard the collision and looked up to see bodies and airplane parts falling toward the schoolyard.
Several of the players, seventh and eighth graders, "stood motionless, like they were in shock," said one spectator, but another, FRANK GARCIA, said, "We all started running over the courts. Everyone was really scared."
Several teachers helped deputies locate blankets and cover a half-dozen bodies which landed on or near the court. School had been released only one hour before the crash.
"It just seemed like they (the planes) went right into each other," said a witness. "Then they just exploded, and there were pieces flying everywhere."
RANDY MORGAN, 16, of 14748 Carfax Ave., Bellflower, said he was working in the neighborhood when he heard an explosion and looked up.
"I saw the wings and all split out, and then there were a couple more explosions after that," he said.
"A piece of tail flew down and hit about two doors from me, so I hid in a doorway. A pilot's hat landed right by me, and there was a little blood in it," the Bellflower High School sophomore said.
A decapitated body strapped in a seat, pilot's wings pinned to the shirt, landed nearby.
The light plane crashed about two blocks from the school, spraying debris over an intersection.
There was no explosion or fire when the planes hit the ground but several witnesses said they heard an explosion when the planes collided. Some witnesses said the Golden West plane went into a dive after a wing sheared off and others said bodies spilled from a hole in the fuselage.
Wreckage fell on several homes in the area. CLAUDE AGUIRRE, 32, said he was in the bathroom when he heard a crash and went to his 3-year-old daughter's rooom and found the engine complete with propeller on the floor. One of the plane's wings crashed into a rear patio at the home.
"I heard a loud crash and the house shook like an earthquake," AGUIRRE said later. "Thank God no one else was home at the time. I couldn't believe what happened. I called my wife at work and told her -- guess what -- we've got a plane in our house ... we've got an airplane in VERONICA'S room .. a propeller."
The little girl was at her babysitter's home at the time.
JAVIER RAMOS, who lives two blocks from AGUIRRE, said he saw the planes plunging to the ground. "I could hear all the stuff hitting the roof. I ran into the house to get my family together and we got out," he said.
Another area resident, ARNOLD R. PATE, 58, rushed home to find the wing of the Golden West plane on his lawn.
"Some kids told me it just skimmed over the roof of my house from the north," he said. "It landed where I usually park my car. It's a miracle no one was hurt on the ground. I feel sorry for those who were killed."
"One thing I know -- I've got one helluva big plane wing in my front yard and I don't know what to do with it."
The area was sealed off by sheriff's deputies and highway patrolmen to discourage hundreds of sightseers from interfering with rescue and clean up operations.
Federal authorities immediately began an investigation of the accident, which was the first in Golden West's seven year history.
The airline has 11 planes, all De Havilland Twin Otters, which ferry passengers between airports in the Los Angeles area.
The accident was the worst local air disaster since June 6, 1971, when a Marine F4 Phantom jet collided with a Hughes Airwest jetliner over the San Gabriel Mountains, killing 50 persons.
AIRPLANE CRASH VICTIMS LISTED.
Los Angeles County Coroner THOMAS T. NOGUCHI today announced that the following is a list of persons who reportedly were in the two aircraft that collided in mid-air Thursday over Whittier. (No addresses were disclosed.)
MITCHELL R. KOLODNYCHI.
MR. G. SWANSON.
MRS. G. SWANSON.
MR. A. HOWARD.
MRS. A. HOWARD.
Press Telegram Long Beach California 1975-01-10