South Portland, ME Bomber Crashes, July 1944
MANY DIE AS PLANE CRASHES INTO CAMP.
South Portland, Me., July 11 -- (AP) -- A medium Army bomber crashed and exploded in a 100-unit government trailer colony late today, spewing flaming oil and gasoline over the hoes of war workers, killing 12 and injuring scores.
The tragedy was the worst airplane accident in Maine's history.
The dead were four children and eight adults. Two of the latter were Army men.
The identified dead:
EDWARD A. GERRISH, 32, of Orono, a shipyard worker.
GEORGE ROBERTSON, JR., 9 months, whose parents and sister, MARIE, were among the injured.
The ROBERTSON child died in the Maine General hospital in Portland, where 20 other persons were treated for severe burns. The others died instantly.
With the exception of the two Army men those who died instantly were trapped in their lightly-built semi-permanent trailer homes.
Identification of the dead proceeded at funeral homes in Portland and South Portland while police and firemen probed wreckage of trailers for other possible victims.
The plane appeared to have been in trouble as it banked over the airport and then disappeared in a fog bank to crash almost immediately afterwards.
A radio request for landing instructions was received by the Civil Aeronautics administration airway communications station at the airport as the plane circled the field at rooftop height. There was no reply to urgent orders to gain altitude.
First Service command officials said the aircraft was a "light, Army plane" from Barkesdale field, La., which had stopped earlier in the afternoon at Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Conn. Only two men were aboard the plane it was said. Names of the men were withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Army officers from Ft. Williams, Cape Elizabeth, and Grenier Field, Manchester, N.H., began an investigation to determine identity of the airmen and cause of the crash.
All of the bodies of the dead were badly charred.
The camp is known as the Westbrook Trailer camp and is adjacent to the federal Redbank housing development. The trailers are of the semi-permanent type.
The plane struck an embankment on the edge of the camp and leaped on into the trailers enveloping the settlement in flames and smoke as it exploded. Occupants dashed from trailers, mothers carrying babies and others calling frantically for the children.
One engine of the two-motored plane hurtled through a trailer, passing within a few feet of a mother and child lying on a couch who were uninjured.
Other trailers, ignited by flaming gasoline and oil from the plane, quickly were enveloped in flames.
The body of one airman was found beneath the flooring of a trailer and firemen said he evidently had been thrown through a window of a trailer foundation.
The camp is a government project and housed families of men and women working in shipbuilding
and other war industries in the Greater Portland area.
GUY WALKER, mechanic at the Portland airport, said the plane made a "tight vertical bank" over the field and disappeared into a fog bank which was rolling in from the south. Fifteen seconds later it crashed in the camp.
Dozens of trailers were demolished and set afire as the plane landed in their midst. All that was left standing of one was its red brick chimney.
THEODORE HALLEY, meat cutter in nearby Redbank village, a government project, said he observed the plane swoop in low with the motor sounding as though it were in trouble.
"It seemed as though the pilot tried to land against an embankment in front of the trailers so as not to hit them."
"He succeeded but the plane appeared to catapult into the air. It leaped over the embankment and into the trailers and began to burn furiously."
An explosion that followed scattered burning oil and gasoline over the trailers.
At the Maine General hospital where most of the injured were taken in Red Cross and city ambulances, many of the injured and crying children were without their parents.
Morning Avalanche Lubbock Texas 1944-07-12
PLANE TRAGEDY TOLL HITS 17.
South Portland, Me., July 13 (INS) -- The toll of dead in the crash of a light army bomber in the Westbrook trailer camp rose to 17 today with the death this morning of MRS. RITA ROBERSTON, 24.
She succumbed at Maine General hospital. Her 9-month-old son, GEORGE, JR., died in the crash that destroyed 21 trailer homes Tuesday, and her daughter, ANNE MARIE, 3, is recovering from burns at the hospital.
Identification of the charred bodies, six of them children, has been completed.
The FBI and the army are investigating the air accident, the worst in Maine's history.
Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1944-07-13