Hinsdale, IL Plane Crash, Sept 1961
Probing Possibility Bomb on Airliner
TWA Craft Falls Shortly After Midway Takeoff; No Survivors
CHICAGO (AP) - A Trans World Airlines tourist-class airliner with several family groups aboard crashed and burned in a muddy cornfield near suburban Hinsdale early today, minutes after taking off for Los Angeles. All 78 persons aboard were killed.
The big four-engine Constellation exploded and caught fire as it plowed into the rain-soaked ground 10 miles west of Chicago's Midway Airport.
In Washington, the FBI said it had started an investigation of the possibility that a bomb may have caused the crash.
Most of the 73 passengers were embarking on Labor Day holiday visits. Seven were members of one Los Angeles family.
The crash came shortly after a heavy thunderstorm had raked the area.
JERRY BROZ, a farmer whose house south of Hinsdale is only 150 yards from the wreckage, said he heard the big plane roar overhead, then apparently start a turn.
The big plane was heading almost due north when it struck.
"I think he was trying to land," BROZ said. â€œIt might have been done successfully - with all the space here. But something was wrong."
The thunderous explosion caused residents of the area to look first southward, toward Argonne National Laboratories, the Atomic Energy Commission installation which is five miles southwest of the crash scene.
The blast spewed burning oil and scorched the side of BROZ' house, melting the plastic screens on windows. A big wheel assembly rocketed through the side of a corregated[sic] steel machinery shed. Inside the shed later, portions of three bodies were found.
The dead were scattered with debris over an area one-fourth by three-fourth of a mile. Scattered effects included a baby bonnet, a bathrobe, shower clogs, a partly burned dress. There were burst traveling bags and suitcases.
As morning came, a hundred or more officials and workers prepared to collect the bodies. A Red Cross emergency disaster unit crisscrossed the field, driving stakes with numbers on them into the soft mud beside each body.
Then, came the specialist team - a group of police officials. Civil Aeronautics Authority and FBI men, physicians.
The dead were taken to the Cook County Morgue in Chicago.
The plane, with a crew of five, had taken off from Boston en route to Los Angeles, with stops at New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago. The crash occurred at 2 a. m.
First reports indicating that the plane had exploded in the air and crashed in a fiery mass were emphatically challenged by several residents of the area.
CHARLES C. GEORGE, JR. said he heard the big ship's engines roar close by, looked from his bedroom window, and saw the plane's black silhouette skimming about 50 feet above a couple of small trees.
"There was a tremendous roar from the plane's engines," GEORGE said. "The next thing I saw was a huge sheet of flames as the plane hit the ground."
GEORGE HOLUB, 46, a photographer who lived nearby, said he first heard the plane's engines and detected some sputter over a straining roar. "There seemed to be engine trouble," he said. "I saw nothing, but heard the crash," he said.
A spokesman for TWA said: "The plane appeared to be coming from the north" when it crashed. "That is an unusual flight pattern" for a plane going from Chicago to Los Angeles.
The plane, leaving Midway normally would fly west. The crash scene is about 12 miles directly west of Midway Airport and about 1½ miles southwest of Hinsdale, a western suburb of some 15,000 people 20 miles west of downtown Chicago and 35 miles northwest of Hammond.
WILLIAM PAYNE, 42, a plastics worker in a plant in nearby Downers Grove, said he heard the crash and drove to the scene.
"The plane just missed the five homes in the area," PAYNE said. "It came within about 150 feet of one of the homes."
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