Washington, DC Airplane Crash over Capitol Airport, Nov 1949

DC-4 AIRLINER PLUNGES INTO POTOMAC

At Least 25 Lose Lives In Crash Over Capital Airport

Eastern Airlines Passenger Plane From New York And Small Bolivian Military Ship Crash In Air; At Least 25 Are Known Dead; Airliner Was A DC-4.

Washington, Nov. 1 (AP) - At least 25 persons were killed today in the collision of an Eastern Air Lines passenger plane and a Bolivian military plane near the National Airport with a heavy loss of life.

Fourteen bodies were removed from the airliner within the first half hour of rescue efforts. The wrecked plane was resting partly in the Potomac River.

Airport police and service crews rushed rescue efforts.

The extent of casualties was not immediately known.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration said the smaller plane was a A-38 of the Bolivian Air Force.

The airliner was a DC-4. Planes of this type can carry 50 or more passengers.

Massive chunks of the passenger plane were strewn along the shore of the Potomac within 30 feet of the highway. Most of the passenger compartments collapsed and sank beneath the water.

Government officials said the Bolivian government bought two P-38 planes from the U. S. about three or four weeks ago for the Bolivian air force.

One was sent to Bolivia. The other has been kept here pending routine clearance.
P. M. CLIFFORD of Washington, who witnessed the collision, estimated the planes were about 300 feet in the air.

He said the smaller plane plunged into the Potomac and disappeared.

"I was driving south when I suddenly looked up," CLIFFORD said. "I saw a ball of fire and a trail of smoke about 300 feet above the ground and one plane falling."

"I parked my car and ran to the river bank. I saw them bring a woman out of the wreckage and several men. They were terribly battered. I could not stand to look any more."

The under belly of the airplane was ripped open.

Volunteers working with police and firemen had the first bodies removed from the plane before the confusion subsided at the scene. Hundreds of automobiles were backed up on the highway which was blocked by police for the ambulances.

{New York, Nov. 1, (AP) - Eastern Airlines here said U. S. Rep. GEORGE J. BATES, Republican, of Salem, Mass., was a passenger aboard the E. A. L. plane which collided with a military plane over Washington, D. C., today and crashed.}

Boatmen were going back and forth over the river looking for bodies.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration identified the pilot of the military plane at RIOS BRIDOUX, director of civil aviation in Bolivia.

The CAA gave this account of the actual crash:
The Bolivian was on a test flight from National Airport. As he came back toward the field he asked for landing instructions and was advised by the tower that he was second to come down, behind the EAL flight.
The tower ordered BRIDOUX to circle the field so as to come in behind the commercial ship.
He did not acknowledge the call, which the control tower repeated several times.
The bodies were hurled more than 150 feet to the shore. Personal effects, clothing, and other items were picked from trees and bushes where the impact had thrown them.
The big airliner struck at the river's edge, skidded down an embankment and nosed into the mud.
Police dragging the river pulled one badly mangled body into a boat.

The CAA's first reports were that the military plane hit the big airliner's tail or left wing.
CAA understood there were 49 passengers aboard the DC-4 and a crew of four. The plane was due to go on from Washington to Atlanta, with stops at Charlotte and Raleigh, N. C.

The Daily Mail Hagerstown Maryland 1949-11-01

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