San Clemente, CA Airplane Crash, Jan 1930

Lindy Probes Plane Crash Killing 16 In Worst Air Disaster

Sudden Squall From Sea Blamed For Wrecking of Maddux Liner From Agua Caliente; Passengers Burned To Death In Flaming Ruins Near San Clemente.

By Thomas R. Curran
(United Press Staff Correspondent)
SAN CLEMENTE, Jan. 20. -- With Colonel CHARLES A. LINDBERGH taking an active part in the investigation a board of expert pilots will convene in Glendale to-morrow to attempt to determine cause and responsibility for the Maddux air tragedy in which sixteen persons were killed near here last night.
D. W. TOMLINSON, director of operations for the T. A. T. Maddux Line, announced the Glendale meeting while investigating the tragedy to-day.
EDDIE BELNDE, F. H. WHITNEY, F. D. WELSH, all of whom are expected to view the wreckage to-day, will take part in the inquiry, TOMLINSON said.
The wrecked plane, a Maddux air liner, en-route from Agua Caliente to Los Angeles, was operated by the T. A. T. Company, of which LINDBERGH is an executive.
“It is apparent,” TOMLINSON declared, “that bad weather, coming in suddenly from the ocean, caused the tragedy.”
“The rain and fog apparently forced the pilot so low that he didn't have enough altitude to make the turn when he found it necessary.”
“Witnesses questioned by me have said that just before the plane was heard a large rain cloud swept in from the ocean. This, coupled with the gentle rise of land in that vicinity, I believe, caused the accident.”
“This tragedy is very regretable,” TOMLINSON said. “We are doing all we possibly can to get to the bottom of the accident and we shall give the public the whole truth.”
TOMLINSON was accompanied by his bride. He was married in Hollywood last Saturday.
14 Bodies Identified.
With investigations by the Maddux line, repartment[sic] of commerce, and San Diego air board in progress to-day, Coroner SCHUYLER C. KELLY announced the inquest would be held in Oceanside at 10 A. M. to-morrow to probe the tragedy.
Bodies of fourteen of the sixteen victims had been identified at noon to-day.
The two unidentified bodies were those of FRANCES JAMESON, 714 West Call Street, Pasadena, and ELIZABETH SQUIBB, 1364 Loma Vista, Passadena.
So badly burned were these two bodies that positive identification of either was almost impossible.
Airmen at the scene believed the pilots' report would corroborate in the main the earlier findings of the San Diego Air Board.
This board, a civic organization, blamed the tragedy on a sudden sea squall which caught the heavy tri-motored plane as it was looping back towards San Diego.
“In attempting to turn,” the board reported, “the left wing of the plane was swept by the pressure of the storm against the ground.”
As the plane toppled under the impact of the wing crash, the board found, its gasoline tanks became dislodged, spraying the fuel over its still hot motors. The explosion, followed by the fatal flames, came as the plane struck.
Bad Storm Area
The section through which the big transport was flying is considered a bad storm area because of the squalls which come off the Pacific without warning.
Pilot BASIL RUSSELL, an experienced flier, knew this and lost no time attempting to turn back when he saw the storm approaching, officials said.
The squall came too swiftly, however, and his plane was forced to an estimated 200-foot level before he could attempt to swing it around.
The board found nothing to substantiate the belief of one witness that there was motor trouble.
The sixteen dead were:
MR. AND MRS. EDWARD J. BOWEN, of Los Angeles.
EDWARD J. SMALL, Los Angeles.
FRANCES JAMIESON, Alhambra, California.
CHARLES RABOLD, Fair Hope, Alabama.
MISS ELIZABETH SQUIBB, Pasadena, California.
MRS. HANNAH BATTSTEIN, Fair Hope, Alabama.
W. W. PADEN, Los Angeles.
Pilot BASIL RUSSELL, Glendale, California.
Co-Pilot FREDDIE WALKER, Glendale, California.
The plane had left the Mexican pleasure resort at 5:50 P. M. yesterday with its capacity load. Less than an hour later, at 6:23 P. M. it was a blazing funeral pyre.
A strap watch on the wrist of one of the women passengers stopped at that time, giving the probable exact moment of the explosion.
Identification Difficult
Most of the bodies were so badly burned that identification was difficult. All were taken from the smouldering wreckage early to-day. Three bodies were hurled from the blazing ship as it slithered 150 through the muddy field.

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San Clemente, CA Airplane Crash, Jan 1930

This whole theory is a "cover up." The pilot, my Grandfather Basil Russell, was the scapegoat. The investigators are "bias" sense they were the owners of the airlines as well as Colonel Charles A. Lindberg. The investigators concluded that there was a pilot error do to weather conditions. There were few witnesses at the scene that heard sputtering engine(s) noises before the plane crashed. The pilots were attempting an emergency landing after the engine(s) were failing. The airline company testified in court that all three engines were running at the time of the accident sense they found all three propellors were "curled up." As I've been doing extensive research I came across a picture in the newspaper of the engine with a straight propellor. This picture was found on the front page of The Pittsburgh Press volume-No. 209 Monday, January 20, 1930 (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) The picture clearly shows the propellor not "curled up." In my opinion, Ford Motor Company and Maddux-T.A.T. should of been held responsible rather than making Basil Russell and his co pilot the scapegoat.