Clear Lake, IA Airplane Crash Kills Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, Feb 1959

Buddy Holley Plane Wreck that Killed Buddy Holly, submitted by Stu Beitler Plane Wreck that Killed Buddy Holly, submitted by Stu Beitler Plane Wreck that Killed Buddy Holly, submitted by Stu Beitler Buddy Holley, photo from wikipedia.org Buddy Holley's Headstone in Lubbock Texas, photo from wikipedia.org Buddy Holly Crash Iowa.JPG buddy holly wreck 5.jpg


Airplane Crashes In Iowa

Iowa Pilot Also Killed; Trio Had Performed At Clear Lake

MASON CITY (AP) - Three of the nation's top rock 'n' roll stars were killed during a light snow when their chartered plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport here early Tuesday.

The trio, BUDDY HOLLY, 22, of Lubbock, Texas; RITCHIE VALENS, 17, of Los Angeles, and J. P. RICHARDSON, 24, of New Orleans, known professionally as the "Big Bopper", had completed an engagement at the Surf ballroom in nearby Clear Lake a short time before.

The were on their way to Fargo, N. D., for an appearance Tuesday night.

Iowa Plane
The 4-place plane was chartered from the Dwyer Flying Service of Mason City.

The pilot was ROGER PETERSON of Clear Lake, who was also killed.
Cause of the crash was not immediately determined, although authorities tentatively blamed weather conditions at the time of takeoff.

C. R. Appearance
The 3 rock 'n' roll singers killed in an Iowa plane crash Tuesday were to have appeared at Danceland in Cedar Rapids Friday night. DARLOW OLSON, Danceland manager, said replacement stars will be obtained. The trio was to have appeared in Sioux City Wednesday night and Des Moines Thursday night.

Hit Records
HOLLY, who sang with the Crickets, sailed to Rock 'n' Roll fame with his recording of "Peggy Sue."

The BIG BOPPER gained fame through his recording of "Chantilly Lace" and the more recent "Big Bopper Wedding."

VALENS was identified as having one of the current top hits, a recording called "Donna."

They had appeared on various television shows and were idols of the teen-age rock 'n' roll set.

Blowing Snow
A strong southerly wind and light blowing snow filled the air when the plane took off about 1 a. m.

The Beechcraft Bonanza burned when it crashed into a field on the ALBERT JUHL farm 15 miles northwest of Mason City.

Other members of the troupe which appeared at Clear Lake had left after the show by chartered bus for Fargo. The are DION and the Belmonts, FRANKIE SARDO and the Crickets, of which HOLLY was the singing star.
HOLLY, VALENS and the "BIG BOPPER" decided to fly in order to arrive ahead of the troupe and make advance preparations.

The 4 bodies were badly burned.

Looked For Plane
JERRY DWYER, owner of the flying service, set out to look for the party when no word came back from his pilot.

He was delayed several hours in searching for the plane because of early morning fog.

Later observers of the wreckage said the plane apparently hit the ground first at the left wingtip, and plowed a furrow about 20 to 25 feet across a stubble field.

Then the body of the craft evidently struck the ground, peeled off the surface of the field, and bounced as the left wing came off and remained there.

Against Fence
The plane then struck the ground again about 100 feet farther northwest, and skidded the length of about 2 city blocks before the wreckage piled up against a fence.

Three of the bodies were lying on the ground near the wreckage, and one still was inside of what was left of the plane.

The plane was just a jumble of wreckage, with pieces here and there. Along the path of the plane also were scattered a suitcase, a shoe, and other articles.

Two deputy sheriffs and some state highway patrolmen would not permit anyone into the field where the plane wreckage lay for about an hour and a half after word of the crash spread.

It took that long to find the county coroner, notify him of the accident, and get him to the scene.

The trip to Fargo was expected to take about 3½ hours.

Both RICHARDSON and VALENS had written some of the tunes they recorded.

VALENS started singing while still in high school and composed "Come On, Let's Go" which first established him as a jukebox favorite.

He was scheduled to appear on the March 7 Perry Como television program.

RICHARDSON started out as a radio station disc jockey.

HOLLY began his musical career studying the violin at age 4. He won an amateur contest a year later, but by his high school days had switched to the guitar. His interest in western music won him appearances on several broadcast shows and in 1955 he came to the attention of recording officials.

His first click disc was "That'll Be The Day", followed by "Early In The Morning" and "Peggy Sue".

Just released was his recording of "It Doesn't Matter Anymore".
HOLLY was married 7 months ago. The other two were single.

In Hollywood, trade sources said the combined record sales of the 3 popular singers was in the millions.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette Iowa 1959-02-03
Some photos courtesy of the excellent site
www.lostflights.org by Mike McComb
Visit this great site


Crash of Buddy Holly

Ok I am perplexed at that my self what I found to be weird was that all reports was that NO ONE knew a thing of the crash until the morning of the 3rd when it hit airwaves I have heard from people on line that people in the are knew of the crash immediately after it happened stating that a sheriffs deputy told them there was a sheriffs deputy that knew how to fly was licensed to do so and was approached by peterson to take the flight but the deputy turned him down and the same deputy was at the crash site the morning it was found but to say that Roger Peterson turned those two switches off is far fetched due to the fact I read pilot Peterson's coroners report and his skin was mostly ripped from his body he had way to many internal injuries and a decapitated finger and all of them suffered severe brain damage and internal injuries I don't know if I believe the story of people hearing of the crash after it had happened until the next morning with it was discovered but something is not right

Magneto switches

Rick, I just read your speculation. The only reason to turn off the mag switches would have been to kill the engine. Judging from the impact photos, I'd say that the engine had quit on impact. Magneto switches in the "on" or "off" positions make no difference once the engine stops turning. The battery switch would have been the one to turn off if you were worried about a fire. Magnetos produce zero voltage when they are not turning and there are no battery leads running to magnetos. The "off" switch on a magneto only grounds the field windings rendering them incapable of produce voltage if they were to be turned. The magneto circut is completely isolated from any other on the plane. The only way to have produced a spark that could start a fire would be from a shorted wire from the planes power circut and the main (only) cut-off for that is the "battery" switch, not magneto.
This may have been a bit technical but, is factual.

Coroner's Report

I agree, the AP report is erroneous based on what I read in the coroner's reports. They made no mention of any burn injuries.


I read the official Civil Aeronautics Board report on Clear Lake 2/3/59 crash from a pilots perspective and one thing strikes me as being odd. The report states, "Magneto switches were both in the "off" position."

All other indications in that report are that the engine was running at a normal RPM, the blade pitch of the variable speed prop was in a normal cruise configuration, the damage to the props (breaking off at the hub) indicate that the engine was producing normal power at the time of impact. If all of that is true then how could the magneto switches have been in the off position (A position that would have instantly killed the engine) at the time of impact? The most likely possibility is that someone switched them off after impact. That is an impossibility for any of the planes occupants to have done if they were all killed instantly as the coroners report indicates.

Is it possible that Roger Peters survived the initial impact and switched off both magneto's in hopes of preventing a fire? He was the only one still in the aircraft after the wreckage came to rest, he would have been the only occupant with the knowledge to perform that task. The only other possibility would be that an unknown individual with knowledge of aircraft was at the crash site prior to the investigators and switched off the magnetos. I think it is far more likely that the pilot Roger Peters survived the initial crash, was conscious for some period of time and was in a position to reach and switch off the Magnetos. If I were trapped in an aircraft with fuel leaking and physically capable of doing so I would try to switch off the magnetos and the master switch.
This is all speculation because there is no information in the coroner's report to determine whether Mr. Peters could have survived the initial impact or in the accident investigation report to determine whether he could have been in a position to physically to reach the mag switches.

AP report was wrong

Reading your post I noticed that the AP reported that the aircraft burned and that all three bodies were badly burned. This is contrary to the official crash investigation which stated that there was no fire.
The official accident report is available at fiftiesweb

Radio Newscast

Listen to a Newscast About Richie Valens, Buddy Holly & Big Bopper Plane Crash. The day the music died.

from archive.org

The Night the Music Died

The Night the Music Died

Searching for the ghost of Buddy Holly in Clear Lake, Iowa.

by Michael Hall, inTexas Monthly

Read it online