Moose Mountain, NH Air Crash, Oct 1968

Nine Area Persons Are Among 32 Killed in Airplane Crash
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Northeast Plane Hits Moose Mt.; Ten Survive
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Nine Barre-Montpelier area persons were among the 32 victims aboard the Northeast Airlines plane, which crashed last night on Moose Mountain, N.H. THe sole area survivor is George Collins, 32, of Montpelier, a National Life Insurance Company executive. He sustained head injuries and is listed in fair condition at Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, N.H., where nine other victims were taken for emergency treatment.

Dead are:

Miss Christine Benedini, 19, Miss Valerie Plunkett, 19, and Edmond G. Rousse, 53, all of Barre; Ferdinand Feola, 30, of Montpelier; Philip Hevalka, 28, of East Montpelier; Terry Hudson, 33, RD, Plainfield; Mr. and Mrs. Ollie Magalsky of Tunbridge, and Jonathan V. Gates, 21, of Jeffersonville, U.S. Navy.

Cause of the crash was not divulged this morning by a Northeast Airlines spokesman in Boston, who reported that the last "radio contact with Flight 946 was at 6:10 p.m." Contents of the taped conversation are expected to be released later today.

The Boston spokesman reported that the Hub was "foggy all day and Flight 916 was off the ground a bit late."

The Fairchild-Hiller FH227 propjet, bearing 39 passengers and 3 crewmen left Boston at 4:40 p.m. and was due at Lebanon, N.H., airport at 5:39 p.m., according to the airline spokesman.

Visibility was reported fair with a 2,000-foot ceiling at the Lebanon Airport, where officials had "given the all clear" for landing.

According to the Federal Aviation Agency in Nashua, N.H., the plane was tracked on radar until making its approach to the Lebanon Airport. The FAA spokesman said "the aircraft was on normal approach to the airport and had received landing instructions."

The FAA spokesman reported that when the "pilot requested a let-down from 6,000 feet, there was no indication of trouble. He radioed Lebanon for an altimeter setting." The normal Lebanon approach over the 2,700-foot Moose Mountain would have held the aircraft at an altitude of 3,500 feet.

Flight 942 from Boston, to Lebanon, to Barre-Montpelier reportedly crashed shortly after 6:10 and was sighted at 6:37 by a mountain resident.

Thirty-two persons, including three crewmen, were killed when the plane crashed in fog and burned 600 feet from the mountain top.

Helicopters lifted the 10 survivors off the mountain. Bodies of the victims are expected to be removed today.

Frigid temperatures and snow squalls and sleet hampered the rescue effort, which was done by flashlight. A Coast Guard helicopter from Salem, Mass., some 113 miles away, was unable to land because of dense fog.

An HC54 rescue aircraft, capable of dropping aero-medical and rescue teams by parachute and of lighting the area with high intensity flares, was sent from Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, N. H., about 83 miles away.

A four-man team from the FAA is probing the cause of the crash. The team includes William Mirabito, specialist in air carrier operations; Robert Jones of the flight standards branch; Vernon Brown, supervisor of air carrier inspection; and Edward Park. Also at the scene were D. Copadis and Ira Milliken of the FAA's Portland, Maine, office.

Arthur E. Fairbanks, vice president headed the Northeast Airlines team of investigators and Paul Madden coordinated the FAA investigation out of this Boston office.

Northeast also enlisted the aid of the FBI in identification. This team was flown in from Washington, D.C.

New Hampshire Gov. John W. King and State Police Director Col. Joseph Regan figured prominently in the rescue and investigation.

Access to the crash scene was over trails bulldozed on both the Etna and Enfield sides of the mountain. Further attempts to bulldoze roads through ledges and dense brush were abandoned.

Fire departments from 13 communities were dispatched to the scene where residents of Etna reported sighting flames shooting from both sides of the mountain. Fire trucks also cordoned Dartmouth College Green, where the helicopters landed.

Rescuers, who labored for hours in the treacherous terrain, suspended work until dawn.

Parmly R. Willis, 39, of Lebanon, N. H., a bow and arrow deer hunter, was headed for his car when he heard the plane. The fog was so dense, he couldn't see the crash.

"The was a terrible crash and the plane burst into flames," he reported, adding that "all at once these bright landing lights started to shine in the fog. They were so close to the mountain then that I knew they were going to hit it. . . I never expected there would be any survivors."

Jean St. Hillaire, 45, one of the first firefighters to reach the scene, said "it was still burning, but there was nothing left of the plane. The front of it was all smashed. THe injured were huddled together and a doctor, who was a passenger on the plane, was trying to help, but he didn't have the needed equipment. Most of the survivors were in shock."

Another fireman, Steve Mack, said a male passenger told him he was apparently thrown from the plane in his seat and hurled down the mountain into a tree. Mack said "he told me he must have been thrown a good 300 feet down the mountain and found himself hanging upside down in a tree and still in his seat. He said he released his seat belt and dropped to the ground.

Fortunately he was close to the ground and not hurt seriously."

Of the 10 survivors, three walked more than a mile down the mountain to the rescue vehicles. One was the stewardess, Miss Betty Frail, 25, of Berkeley Heights, N. Y. She sustained a fractured right leg and multiple lacerations. Volunteers carried the remainder down the mountain.

Both the pilot and his co-ilot were among the dead. Capt. John a Rapais, 52, of Nashua, N. H., had flown this route "hundreds of times," during his

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Comments

Jonathan

Hello Janice;

I was Jon's best friend in the Navy, where we made a trip to the Mediterranean Sea for six months, and went home with him many, many times to Jeffersonville. The day after the accident, his family had contacted our ship and asked that I be Jon's
military escort. The Navy sent me to the Moose Mountain area, and I was guided thru the temporary morgue that was set up to attempt to identify my friend. The worst experience of my life, especially since I had planned to go home with Jon that weekend but instead took another shipmates duty to make some additional money, as I was going to be married the following January. Jon was going to be there for my wedding.

I stayed in very close contact with Eunice, Jerry and Judy over the years, knowing that Jon's father, mother and Jerry have since passed.

I will put together some pictures of Jon and send them to you, ok?

Kindest regards,

Craig in Florida

My sister Patty

hello....my name is Jeff Indence my sister Patricia Indence died in the crash ...she was 16.....was just wondering if we might correspond via email as there are questions i have you may have answers for....smiles.....i hope you and yours are all doing well....Happy Holiday's

I remember this well I grew

I remember this well I grew up in Enfield and was 10 years old at the time. My parents had an Esso gas station and the Valerie Plunkett listed among the dead was the daughter of our Esso sales rep who was from Montpeiler. My sister lived not far from Moose Mountain. The following summer, she, her husband and their kids hiked up there. They found quite a bit of wreckage and personal belongs scattered about.

1968 moose mtn., plane crash.

Very interesting and accurate article. I was a friend of Jonathan v Gates, and his family.I lived through this disaster. It was tough. I was only eighteen at the time. Now Iam Sixty, but still think of Jonathan, to this very day. I have been looking for a news article with a picture of him. But have had no luck. Mabe you could help me? I would be so appreciative.It would mean so much to me, to be able to see his face again. The obit I had from 1968 has long been lost. Thank You, Janice Bolio, P.O.Box 365, Milton, vt. 05468.