Galax, VA Air Liner Crashes In Western Virginia, Jan 1947
VIRGINIA TRAGEDY KILLS 18.
(From Wire Dispatches)
Ten miles from Galax, Va., in the high country of the western part of the state, 18 persons were killed when an Eastern Airlines plane plowed into trees and hillside during a rainstorm early yesterday. A lone passenger partially thrown clear, survived the crash and fire.
Dragged to Safety.
WILLIAM ELLIS KEYES, 25, of Boynton, Fla., was the only survivor among the 16 passengers and crew of three in the Virginia crash. Two residents of the Providence community where the airliner struck ripped a seat from the burning fuselage and dragged him to safety.
"I dozed after the hostess had checked our safety belts preparatory to landing at Winston-Salem," KEYES said. "The next thing I remember was feeling something like a thousand bumps which I suspect was the plane hitting the tree tops."
"I do not remember much else except yelling for help and my rescue by two men. I was sitting on the right side of the plane about two feet back of the trailing edge of the wing. I didn't hear any signs of life about me after the crash."
Rescue Squar Arrives.
The time of the crash was fixed at 1:40 a. m. by MRS. PAUL WARRICK, who checked her clock as her husband rushed out to see what had caused an explosion. She called the Galax fire department and its rescue squad, arriving in 20 minutes, pulled 18 badly charred bodies from the burning plane in an hour and a half after extinguishing the flames with chemicals and water.
The plane, a DC-3 and flight 665 of the line, was due in Winston-Salem at 1:23 a.m. (EST) and radioed its position at 1:14 a. m. as a little more than five miles southeast of the field and 7,000 feet up. That was the last contact reported by the line's office there. Eastern Airlines said the weather, which later closed in, was open enough to permit landing of another plane just before flight 665 was due.
Winston-Salem is about 70 miles southeast of the crash scene.
The plane, coming in from the east, struck the top of trees back of the cemetery of Providence church and cut a path about 500 yards long. The wings were ripped off and the fusilage came to rest against a fill where a dirt road leads from highway 94 into the church. It was a scant five feet from the pavement on the north-south highway and about 100 yards from its intersection with route 95.
Clothing, shoes, sewing kits and other personal effects were scattered along the path cut by the plane.
LAWRENCE MAYS, 55, a timber cutter, and TED DELP, 31, a sawmill operator, living within a stone's throw of the crash, saw and heard the crash and their quick action saved KEYES' life.
"I was up sometime after 1 a. m. with a cold when I heard motors," MAYS said. "Looking out of my window I saw fire falling in my yard. I heard the crash as I started out of the house to see what had happened and could see flames shooting skyward over a knoll between my house and the highway. A man was hollering for help when I got there and gasoline was burning all around the wreckage."
"When I found where the hollering was coming from I went under the fusilage, resting against the fill, and a man was holding out his hand. I pulled at him a couple of times but couldn't get him loose."
"When TED came we pulled him out, seat and all. He said his back wasn't broken but that his feet and shoes were burning. I used my knife to cut his safety belt loose and we pulled off his shoes. He must have been hurt pretty badly, or else he had it pretty easy because he didn't say much after that."
CAA Is Notified.
Chief ROY MANNING of the Galax fire department took personal charge of the rescue squad which rushed through the mountain storm in a vain effort to save others on the plane. The elevation at the scene is about 2,200 feet.
State police, notified at their Wytheville headquarters, quickly took charge at the scene and notified CAA and Eastern Airline officials. JOHNNY DANIELS of EAL's Winston-Salem office hurried to the scene.
In New York, Eastern Airlines said its president, EDDIE RICKENBACKER, had advised it that the Civil Aeronautics Administration filed a message at 2:30 a. m. (EST) stating that the Winston-Salem radio range for planes was not operating. RICKENBACKER, who is in Miami, said it was not known whether the plane ever got that message, or how long the radio range had been inoperative.
CAA officials in Washington said their preliminary report showed that the aircraft was over the CAA range and was cleared by CAA's air traffic control to the Winston-Salem tower at 1:33 a. m. The range did not go off until 2 a. m., the CAA officials said, and the airlines had been notified it would off from 2 a. m. until 4 a. m.
Miami EAL headquarters released the following list of those it said were aboard the plane:
The crew: Capt. H. M. HASKEW, Jacksonville, Fla.; pilot, J. CANEPA, Jacksonville; stewardess, M. McDERMOTT, Miami.
A. SANZ, Ann Arbor, Mich.; A. F. PIMIENTA, Ann Arbor, Mich.; MRS. C. NEWMAN, Port Huron, Mich.; MR. and MRS. E. G. ORRETT, Kingston, Jamaica; GLEN RYMER, Akron, O.; HERBERT C. MILLER, Canal Foulton, O.; MRS. M. ROLAND, Midland, Mich.; MR. and MRS. A. OLSON, Detroit; MRS. S. PETJOVIC, Detroit; MISS ROSE GOMEZ, Cleveland; MISS MOLLY HUBER, Cleveland; MRS. S. BORGERMAN, Northfield, O.; WILLIAM KEYES, JR., Boynton Beach, Fla., the only survivor; C. M. YOUNG, Detroit.
Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1947-01-13