Bainbridge, MD Plane Crash, May 1947
Structural Flaw Thought Cause of Airliner Crash
All 53 Aboard Miami-bound Plane Dead in Nation's Worst Air Wreck
BAINBRIDGE--An Eastern Airlines official said today a structural defect may have caused the crash of a giant luxury liner which killed fifty-three persons last night in the nation's worst commercial aviation disaster.
The four-engined airliner--one of Eastern's Silver Fleet--plunged 6,000 feet out of a clear sky into swampy woods near here shortly before seven p.m., EDT.
The airlines official declined use of his name. He told a reporter after a meeting with Civil Aeronautics Authority officials in Washington this morning that eyewitness accounts of the crash led investigators to believe it may have been caused by a structural defect in the plane--a DC-4 bound from Newark to Miami.
Weather Ruled Out
As he added, however, that eyewitness accounts sometimes are "unreliable." He said weather had been virtually ruled out as a factor in the crash.
At least three eyewitnesses to the airliner's death plunge reported they thought parts of the tail section were torn loose before the plane fell.
All aboard perished, including a tiny infant whose decapitated body was found still clutched in its mother's arms. The plane carried forty-nine passengers and four crew members. Many of the bodies were so badly mangled that identification was difficult, if not impossible.
It was by far the worst domestic disaster in the history of commercial aviation. The death toll equaled that of any heavier-than-air calamity in the world.
The airliner's plunge into the swampy woods of rural Maryland was witnessed by a group of Civil Aeronautics Board investigators, who were flying back to Washington after studying the United Air Lines disaster at New York's LaGuardia Airport just twenty-three hours earlier.
No Official Opinion
Within an hour, they were at the wreckage. They had no official opinion as to cause of the crash, pending a more extensive investigation.
A conference with Eastern officials was called in Washington this morning.
But it was known that the CAB authorities were much interested in the story of a young sailor, who told shocked bystanders at the wreckage that he saw a piece of the tail break from the fuselage just before the plane hit.
The CAB officials ordered a special search made for pieces of wreckage that might have come loose before the plane crashed.
They themselves had witnessed the beginnings of the plunge. From their plane they saw the airliner, which had taken off from Newark, N. J., at 6:04 p. m. EDT., flying along at an altitude of 6,000 feet. The sky was clear, and the plane apparently was proceeding safely on its non-stop trip to Miami.
The pilot, William Coney, one of Eastern's top men, had reported "all is well" over Philadelphia.
"Structural Flaw Thought Cause of Airliner Crash". Middletown Times Herald, Middletown, NY, May 31, 1947., p. 1.