Louisville, KY Plane Crashes At Airport, Sep 1953
PLANE CARRYING 38 SOLDIERS CRASHES AT LOUISVILLE AIRPORT; 22 PERSONS KILLED, 19 HURT.
CRAFT STALLED WHEN PILOT TRIED TO LAND.
Louisville (UP) -- An Army-chartered plane normally used to carry vacationers to pleasure resorts crashed yesterday afternoon, killing 20 Puerto Ricans soldiers and two crew members, and critically or seriously injuring 19 other persons.
The two-engined C-46, operated by Resort Airlines, cracked up on Standiford Field, the city airport, at the end of a flight from Philadelphia. It was ferrying 38 soldiers from Camp Kilmer, N. J., to Fort Knox, Ky.
Nearly all the injured suffered burns, broken bones, head or internal injuries. They were unconscious or in a state of shock hours after the crash.
Witnesses said that just before the plane touched down, the pilot suddently seemed to sense something was wrong and pulled up sharply. The craft stalled several hundred feet from the ground and plummeted nose first into a soybean patch.
Both engines caught fire but the flames were quickly put out by airport emergency crews.
The forward section of the plane and the left wing were smashed into fragments. The rest of the fuselage was left fairly intact, but twisted and pierced with holes. Debris, soldiers' duffle bags and personal equipment lay scattered for hundreds of feet around the wreckage.
One of the first to reach the wreck was MARION HOPPER, an American Airlines employe.
"I've seen plane wrecks before, but this was the worst," HOPPER said, "the plane was afire when we arrived, and at least 15 or 20 persons were either lying dead or moaning pitifully."
City Fire Captain ED SCHMITT, who arrived moments later, said "It was just one mess of screams and moans. Nobody could talk coherently."
Lt. Col. HENRY STIEBEL, Ft. Know transportation officer, said lists he received from the airline and from Camp Ilmer showed the plane carried 38 soldiers and three crew members.
The Army would not release official casualty lists until next of kin were notified. Unofficial lists by hospitals and the coroner had no home address, and even the names were doubtful. Because many of the Spanish names were very similar, some may have been duplications.
The dead crew members were identified at the pilot, Capt. WHARTON MOLLER, 33, and the co-pilot, JOHN DeWITT PICKEL, 31, both of San Antonio, Tex.
Stewardess DOROTHY JEAN BUSH, Miami, Fla., was critically injured and for a time it was thought amputation of a leg would be necessary.
STIEBEL said the soldiers were en route to Ft. Knox for processing -- either discharge from the service or reassignment.
The plane was one of five chartered by the Army for the 140-man troop movement. One already had landed and the others wre sent to nearby airfields.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration planned to examine the wreckage and question witnesses to determine the cause of the disaster, the first fatal crash at Standiford Field since it was opened in 1944.
Fourteen injured, including the stewardess, were at St. Joseph's Infirmary, four at General Hospital, and one at St. Anthony's Hospital.
St. Joseph's used all availaable facilities to care for the injured. One victim after another was carried into the operating room for surgery, and the hospital exhausted its supplies of type "O" blood.
Records at the Standiford Field Control Tower were sealed pending examination. A military police guard was thrown around the plane, and the entire field was closed off to sightseers.
Middlesboro Daily News Kentucky 1953-09-29
TROOP PLANE TOLL NOW 23; PROBE OPENS.
STEWARDESS DIES IN KY. HOSPITAL; 18 OTHERS CRITICAL.
Louisville, Ky. (AP) -- The death toll from the worst aviation disaster in Kentucky's history climbed to 23 today when stewardess DOROTHY JEAN BUSH, 32, of San Antonio, succumbed.
Twenty-two persons, including 20 Puerto Rican soldiers, were killed outright when a two-engine chartered airliner nearing the end of its journey went out of control late yesterday and crashed in the center of Louisville's Standiford Field.
The remaining 18 of the ship's 41 passengers remained in critical condition in three hospitals.
Civil Aeronautics Board investigators took over at the scene of the crash.
The twin-engine C46 one of five chartered by the Army to transfer 140 soldiers from Camp Kilmer, N. J. to Ft. Knox, Ky., nearly touched ground when undetermined trouble developed.
After pulling up to about 400 feet, the liner nosed down and crashed with a terrific impact. Bodies were scattered as far as 100 feet. Some were decapitated.
Sister of W. Va. Woman.
MISS BUSH was the only member of the crew of three who escaped immediate death. Resort Airlines of Miami, Fla., operator of the flight, gave her address as Miami, but hospital records listed her as from San Antonio.
(She was a sister of MRS. C. B. DAVIS of Bluefield, W. Va.)
The pilot, Capt. WHARTON MILLER, 33, and his assistant, Co-Capt. JOHN DeWITT PICKEL, 31, both of San Antonio, Tex., were dead when ambulances arrived.
The status of the soldiers was not clarified immediately since their records went with them on the transfer.
Authorities at Camp Kilmer said they were among a group of Puerto Ricans processed from overseas for reassignment and that quite likely some of them saw combat service in Korea.
Lt. Col. ROSCOE BUCKLES, staff duty officer at Ft. Knox, said the men had been taken to Camp Kilmer from Puerto Rico.
None of the survivors could tell what happened.
One witness, CARL SOUTH, a transportation agent for Trans World Airlines, said the plane came into view at about 1,000 feet and descended in a normal manner. He said he noticed the left elevator flap on the tail drop and the plane pulled up. All at once it nosed down and crashed into the middle of the spacious field.
The plane broke into two parts and both engines burst into flames. Most of the survivors seemed to come out of the tail section.
Those first on the scene said the injured were crying and screaming and muttering invocations to "Maria," the Virgin Mary in the Puerto Ricans' Spanish tongue.
Charleston Daily Mail West Virginia 1953-09-29