Hinsdale, IL Plane Crash, Sept 1961

The FBI, the Federal Aviation Agency and the Civil Aeronautics Board rushed experts from Washington to find the cause of the crash, which ranked as the ninth worst in the history of commercial aviation in terms of lives lost.

FBI in Investigation
An FBI disaster team from Washington was part of the investigative unit. The FBI confirmed that it was looking for any signs of sabotage - even a bomb - but that this"is a routine measure in disasters of this type." The FBI spokesman said any report of evidence that the four-engine Constellation was destroyed by a bomb “is mere speculation."
CAB investigators searched for an unidentified ham radio operator who was reported to have head a dramatic last-second conversation between the pilot of the doomed plane and the control tower at Midway.
T. A. NIEMEYER, who lives close to the crash scene, said he met the ham operator amidst the smouldering wreckage of the airliner.
NIEMEYER said the operator told him he heard the pilot, Capt. JAMES H. SANDERS, 40, Manhattan Beach, Calif., say: "I've got an electrical fire - what should I do?"
"Circle or set it down," the ham operator said the tower replied.
"I can't circle," the ham operator said SANDERS replied. 'It's too hot."

Look for Operator
B. R. ALLEN, CAB supervisor for air safety at Chicago, assigned an investigator to search for the operator. He said it was entirely possible that someone heard such a conversation. But his investigator, CLIFFORD SCHACHER, said he had checked the only two known ham operators in the immediate area and they knew nothing of the broadcast.
J. D. HARRIGAN, TWA regional vice president in charge of sales, said the report of the conversation could not be true.
HARRIGAN said neither the Midway control tower nor the control tower at the Kansas City airport, which would also pick up such a message, heard anything from the pilot in the minutes before the crash.
"The report has to be false because it's impossible for a ham radio operator to hear it when our control towers heard nothing," HARRIGAN said.

Tower Refuses Comment
The Midway airport tower refused to make any comment on the crash or any conversation with the falling plane. Officials said they were investigating an eye witness report that the plane was in flames in the sky. All witnesses agreed that the major explosion - a thundering roar followed by leaping flames - occurred moments after the Constellation plunged like a comet into the ground.
The CAB set up special investigative headquarters at the edge of the corn field to determine whether the crackup could have been caused by the weather, structural defects, human error or mechanical failure.
In the hours before dawn, the corn field was littered with the bodies of the victims. At first the field of death was lighted by white hot flames from the wreckage. Then, a graveyard silence settled over the field.
Rescue workers covered the bodies with sheets, before moving them to the Cook County morgue in Chicago. National Guardsmen stood sentry duty around the cordoned-off area.
Despite the troopers, looters could be seen moving through the light rain which fell upon the bodies. They were searching for wallets and other valuables.
Despite the rain, the weather apparently played no part in the disaster. Heavy thunderstorms had raked Chicago and its western suburbs earlier in the night. But visibility was three miles, with broken and overcast skies, when the Constellation went down.

TWA headquarters in New York at first set the number of persons aboard the plane at 776 and then raised the number to 77 - 5 crew members, 70 adult passengers, and 2 infants.
The crew members, including two stewardesses, were all from the Los Angeles area. Many of the passengers were from Eastern Seaboard cities. They included what may have been a family of five named CHAMBERLAIN which boarded the plane at New York and another group of four named GILLIAM - a mother and four children. They got on the Constellation at Boston.

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Comments

James Newlin

James Newlin, the flight engineer, was my uncle Jim. My mother and I were in the kitchen of our home in Maryland listening to the radio when the news came on. When we heard about the crash, my mother said, "that's Uncle Jim's plane", as she knew his route. We were devastated as he was tall, handsome, and a very good person who has been much missed ever since.

Saw a grave in local

Saw a grave in local churchyard dedicated to Remnant Family who died in an air crash in 1961, just googled them and came across this site, it is fascinating to read and so sad for all the victims and their families.

Correction

The pilot's name was James H. Sanders not James S. Sanders - my apologies.

Hinsdale, IL Plane Crash

Hi Janet,
I was very intrigued by your information above. I had never heard this before. I am interested because the captain of the plane that night, James S. Sanders, was the captain of my dad's B-17 during World War II. They were one of the original cadre of men to go to England to fly bombing missions. Captain Sanders flew 25 missions for the Rum Boogie crew (the name of the plane), and they never crashed or were shot down, which was almost unheard of. He was an amazing pilot. I have a page on my website (dedicated to the RB crew) for Captain Sanders. I have been in contact with relatives of his, but this is the first I knew of this. It is all so heartbreaking - I can imagine the guilt your father must have felt. Feel free to visit my website: www.ekmark.wix.com/rumboogie for more information.

Carol Walls and her infant son were passengers on this flight

I was 7 years old when my Grandmother came to our front door. She told us Carol Walls and her infant baby boy were killed on this doomed TWA flight. Carol was from Streator, IL... She was returning home to
Los Angeles, CA...
Ironically, Carrol was in our hometown for the funeral of our oldest Brother's infant child who died from SIDS. As one can imagine Labor-day was a very difficult for the Olesen family.
RIP: Carol Olesen Walls

Carol Walls and her infant son were passengers on this flight

I was 7 years old when my Grandmother came to our front door. She told us Carol Walls and her infant baby boy were killed on this doomed TWA flight. Carol was from Streator, IL... She was returning home to
Los Angeles, CA...
Ironically, Carrol was in our hometown for the funeral of our oldest Brother's infant child who died from SIDS. As one can imagine Labor-day was a very difficult for the Olesen family.
RIP: Carol Olesen Walls

Roger Berrif

I was born in Jan 62 after Roger died, and he was not aware he had a son. Would like to know more about him. Are you able to help?

You are correct Mr. Lincoln.

You are correct Mr. Lincoln. Thank you for clarifying the matter.

Chamberlain family

Ted Chamberlain and his wife Nancy were my parents' best friends. Ted and my father were both very successful architects working at my father's firm, Stedman & Williams, AIA, in Palo Alto, CA. I remember my parents' horror when they heard about this tragedy.
I remember they were a wonderful family. This crash was the first time I remember people talking about the need for families to split up when they travel by plane (notice how many others victims are families).

Marilyn Waldron

Robert Hemken Jr., I am Marilyn's cousin. Her mother & my father were siblings. I was 22 when she was killed. I remember the day the Waldron's all left New York State for their cross country trek to live in California. You are Elaine's son correct?