Compton, CA Helicopter Enroute to Disneyland Crashes, Aug 1968
Copter for Disneyland Cracks Up, Killing 21
Compton, Calif. (AP)-A helicopter carrying youngsters and adults to a day of fun at Disneyland broke apart and plunged in pieces into a playground Wednesday, killing all 21 aboard. The dead included the grandson of the airline’s president.
It was the second crash of a Los Angeles Airways copter carrying Disneyland visitors in three months. Twenty-three died in may at nearby Paramount, the worst commercial helicopter disaster in the United States.
The company suspended all flights after Wednesday’s crash.
Among the dead was Christopher Belinn, 14, grandson of Clarence Belinn, president of the helicopter shuttle service.
Mrs. Reid Wasson, an aunt, said Christopher had been visiting his grandparents in North Hollywood and was returning home. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Belinn of Santa Anna, which is near Disneyland.
The twin-turbine copter was the same type as the one which crashed May 22 on a flight to Los Angeles from Disneyland.
Twenty-one bodies were pulled from the charred and crumpled wreckage by late Wednesday afternoon, Coroner Thomas Noguchi said. Most were found strapped in their seats. The crash site was the only open area within miles. No one on the ground was injured.
The body of the pilot was part way out of the cockpit and his head was resting on the ground, said Don Rosteing, 28, of Lynwood, a mechanic at a nearby transmission shop.
“His hair was on fire,” Rosteing said. “We tried to spray him with the extinguishers, but the flames swept right over him.”
“God bless that man,” said a witness, Jonathan Dollar, 46, about the pilot. “He tried to the very end to keep that copter airborne.”
Dollar watched from his trailer house across the street as the single-rotor Sikorsky S61 plunged from about 50 feet into Leuder’s Park in the suburb of Compton 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
“The fuselage was distorted and it came down slanted to the right,” said Dollar. He ran outside.
“Two small gears and a dime hit me on the chest and fell in front of me. Someone told me ‘I can see a guy in there we can still get.’
“We reached the front and saw the cockpit was torn away and the pilot was trapped partly in the seat by a bar pushed over his midsection.
“I and the other guy tried to pull the bar loose when flames crept up the pilot’s pants leg. The man didn’t change expression. I guess he was already dead.”
Other witnesses used small fire extinguishers on the helicopter, but the fire still raged. Flames streaked along the full length of the fuselage.
“Oh, that one man. It was terrible,” said Linda Stowell, 21, one of the first to arrive, referring to the dead pilot. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
About 30 youngsters were playing in the park when another mechanic at the transmission shop heard three loud pops and looked up to see the helicopter.
“It seemed to hesitate, and its main rotor blade stopped for a second,” said John Sears, 22, of Pico Rivera. “Then it began a slow spin and turned all the way around once clockwise.”
He said he could see the tail section “hanging by some cables or tubes and then it just broke off.”
The fuselage containing the victims narrowly missed a fence around an auto storage lot next to the playground. Bert Koch said the pilot maneuvered to miss his mobile home park nearby.
“I thought sure he was going to hit it and my home,” Koch said, “but he was steering toward the playground, and he hit it dead center.”
The fuselage landed on the grass near the intersection of Rosecrans Avenue and Bullis Road. The tail section fell at Long Beach and Compton Boulevards.
Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 15 Aug 1968
The victims of this week’s crash included recently retired San Francisco police captain, his wife, daughter and 8-year-old granddaughter; the 16-year-old grandson of the air line’s president, and three Denver businessmen.
The coroner’s office identified the police captain and his family as John P. Meehan, 65; his wife, Helen, 63; daughter, Patricia, 32 and granddaughter, Anne, 8, all of San Rafael, Calif.
Christopher Belinn, 14, was identified among the dead as the grandson of Clarence Belinn, president of the helicopter line.
Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 16 Aug 1968
Helicopter Blade Blamed
Washington (UPI) Government air safety investigators reported Friday a helicopter crash which took 21 lives en route to Disneyland Wednesday was caused by one of the five main rotor blades of the craft breaking off in flight.
Joseph J. O’Connell Jr., chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, announced that his agency has recommended an immediate inspection of all helicopters of the type involved in the Compton, Calif., accident. The inspection will involve all Sikorsky Space S1 helicopter spindle units.
O’Connell said the board has found “strong evidence of a metal fatigue type failure of the blade spindle assembly.”
The investigation is continuing, to determine the cause of the fatigue, he reported, and the parts from the chopper have been sent to a metallurgical laboratory for detailed testing.
O’Connell noted that in a similar crash of a Los Angeles Airways helicopter on May 22 there was no evidence of fatigue failure.
“However, the safety board is scrutinizing all the facts thus far developed in both investigations,” he said.
In addition to the fleet inspection, the board made two other recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration: That the FAA adopt a more precise and frequent inspection to prelude future spindle unit failures and that the need be studied for establishing a retirement life for the vital part.
Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 17 Aug 1968