Salt Lake City, UT Flaming Jetliner Crash, Nov 1965
40 DEAD IN FLAMING UTAH AIR TRAGEDY; 50 SURVIVE.
JETLINER CRACKS UP ON AIRPORT RUNWAY.
By James C. Bapis
United Press International
Salt Lake City (UPI) -- A United Air Lines jetliner carrying 90 persons burst into flames Thursday night as it touched down at Salt Lake Municipal Airport. Forty died in the flaming wreckage.
A number of Utahns were among the dead and injured. At least three from Ogden and four from Hill Air Force Base perished.
The 50 survivors, many of them injured, broke windows, smashed open emergency doors or sat stunned in the inferno waiting for rescuers to rip into the plane with axes and torches. At lest four were trapped in a rear section for a half hour after the crash.
Those who managed to find an exit leaped to the ground or jumped onto the drooping wings of the sleek Boeing 727, then slid to the ground where they staggered or just slumped to the asphalt runway.
Amazed rescuers who reached the scene as black smoke and flames billowed from the wreckage, carried or helped some of the survivors walk away to safety.
Jammed Escape Doors.
"Everybody rushed for the doors before the plane stopped," declared Air Force Lt. JOHN SULLIVAN, who was the navigator on a C124 which collided with a small, private plane last Sunday over Tulsa, Okla., killing three persons. "Then panic started."
"One young fellow, a recent college graduate, tried to keep everyone calm, but he couldn't do it. I don't know if he survived."
The young officer from Malden, Mass., who is stationed at nearby Hill Air Force Base, was bitter.
He kept saying no one had "consideration for other people, no consideration whatsoever."
SULLIVAN reported some of the passengers "were packed at the exits, when I finally hit the ground. I thought the plane was going to explode so I ran."
The panic described by SULLIVAN, who lost three "close buddies" in the jet crash, was supported by a UAL ground worker who was among the first to reach the stricken jet.
"The passengers were screaming and trying to get to the rear exit," said the employe.
Twelve hours after the crash, United set the death figure at 40. All the victims had been trapped inside the plane. Their bodies were carried out several hours after the mishap.
However, Sgt. STANLEY CARTER, of the Utah Air National Guard, who headed the detail that removed the bodies from the burned hulk, said he counted and tagged 41 badly burned and mutilated bodies.
Thirty-six survivors of the New York to San Francisco flight were hospitalized, while 14 others were either unhurt or suffered minor injuries.
The pilot and co-pilot were given blood-alcohol tests by Salt Lake City police. An official at University Hospital said the tests were made only to clear up "rumors that intoxicants might be involved."
Pilot GALE C. KEHMEIER, 47, and co-pilot PHILIP SPICER, both of Denver, were termed "very cooperative and willing" by the officer who administered the test.
United spokesmen reacted angrily to the rumors, stating they had no foundation.
DR. GEORGE KIDERA, the airline's medical director, said the purpose of the test was to determine if the fliers had inhaled "toxic chemicals, such as rain repellant and other ingredients found in the cockpit."
The crash was the third in the past three months of the Boeing-built 727. The first occurred Aug. 17 when a United plane plunged into Lake Michigan, killing 30 persons. Earlier this week, an American Airlines 727 crashed while approaching Cincinnati, Ohio, killing 58.
CAB Studies Situation.
The Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington said no decision on grounding the planes would be made until investigators determined the cause of the latest crash. Boeing said in Seattle it has delivered 195 of the aircraft, which have carried nearly 13 million passengers a total of 165 million miles.
Investigators said today it was too early to decide the cause of the mishap. However, two factors under scrutiny were collapse of the airliner's main landing gear and the jet's apparent touchdown short of the runway.
Federal Aviation Agency officers at the airport's control tower said "normal conversation" transpired with the pilot before the crash.
An FAA spokesman in Washington said he believed this was the first time the entire crew -- the jet carried six members -- had survived a major airline tragedy. Whole crews have survived some lesser crashes, he said, but this accident was "a very unusual thing."
Relatives and friends of the plane's passengers clustered in the "horizon room" of the air terminal, clutching cups of coffee that slowly turned cold in their hands.
A priest moved slowly through the group, giving comfort and encouragement, while a stewardess served coffee. The waiting relatives cried, prayed, or just waited motionlessly for word from airline officials on survivors.