Longmont, CO Jet Explosion, Nov 1955
UAL AIRLINER CRASH NEAR PLATTEVILLE KILLS 44 TURNING GREELEY ARMORY INTO CROWED MORGUE.
DC6B Exploded While in Air, Some Report.
By Gordon G. Gauss
LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) -- A four-engine United Air Lines plane -- some witnesses said it seemed to explode in the air -- crashed in a northern Colorado sugar beet field Tuesday night, killing all 44 persons aboard.
The disaster hitting the New York-to-Seattle DC6B craft was the second major crash the air line has suffered in the Rocky Mountain region in less than four weeks.
A UAL airliner smashed into Medicine Bow Peak in southern Wyoming Oct. 6 for a loss of 66 lives, the nation's worst commercial aviation tragedy.
Tuesday night's crash killed 39 passengers, including an infant boy, and 5 crew members.
An airline official declined too speculate on what happened to the plane, explaining that the accounts of witnesses varied widely.
"Some say it exploded in the air, others that it hit the ground and exploded," the spokesman said. "It is difficult for us to say what took place. That probably will have to be determined by the Civil Aeronautics Board."
Resembled Shooting Star
A farm boy, BUD LANG, 20, told a reporter the plane passed directly over where he stood in his farmyard and it "looked like a shooting star coming down."
The air line reported that by 8 a. m. all of the bodies had been taken to undertaking parlors at Greeley, 17 miles northeast of the crash.
Although there was snow at higher elevations, the ground where the plane smashed in pieces into the earth was clear. The temperature was below freezing.
Flight Engineers on Strike
A strike of flight engineers was called against the air line Oct. 23. One of the five crew victims was a pilot who was making the flight as an engineer, a post he formerly held. UAL said he was "fully qualified with many years experience."
A spokesman for the company said at New York there was no connection between the strike and the crash -- "by all means, no!"
Two witnesses told of hearing an explosion before the craft struck in a field and another after it hit in near-freezing weather.
JAKE HEIL said he and his family "thought it was going to hit the house" on their farm. He fixed the time at 7:03 p.m. MST.
Platteville Marshal Saw Flares
JOHN McNEILL, night marshal at Platteville, Colo., six miles distant, reported he saw two flares in the air, "a sort of an explosion -- then a big bright light."
Chief GILBERT R. CARREL of the Colorado Highway Patrol and other investigators said the accounts of an explosion were being checked. None would venture a possible explanation.
Unlike the UAL crash on Medicine Bow Peak near Laramie, Wyo., this accident happened over comparatively level country a few miles east of the Colorado Rockies.
Wreckage Strewn for Mile
Wreckage and bodies were strewn for a mile over a plowed field and a pasture six miles east of Longmont. The scene was about 32 miles north of Denver's city limits and about 30 miles east of scenic Rocky Mountain National Park.
The plane left Denver about 10 minutes earlier and was 20 minutes behind schedule, United Air Lines reported. A company official said it was on course toward Cheyenne, Wyo. He said the DC-6B had a cruising speed of about 300 miles an hour and was capable of carrying up to 64 passengers.
Two Stewardesses on Vacation
Thirty-nine of the victims were passengers, including an infant and two UAL stewardesses on vacation. The crew consisted of Capt. L. H. HALL, pilot; First Officer D. A. WHITE, co-pilot; S. F. ARTHUR, pilot-engineer; and PEGGY PEDDICORD and JACQUELINE HINDS, stewardesses, all of Seattle.
The flight No. 629, originated in New York at noon and made a stop at Chicago before it landed in Denver. It was due to stop in Portland before completing the trip to Seattle.
Plane in Two Sections
The plane broke up and two sections tore holes four feet deep in the earth and burned. The nose -- several hundred feet north -- didn't catch fire but was badly smashed.
A pilot's cap lay overturned near the wreckage. A woman's forearm dangled limply out of a pile of debris. A man's leg lay grotesquely under some bent metal. Scattered bodies were covered with tarpaulins by rescuers.
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