Hinsdale, IL Plane Crash, Sept 1961

Probing Possibility Bomb on Airliner

TWA Craft Falls Shortly After Midway Takeoff; No Survivors

CHICAGO (AP) - A Trans World Airlines tourist-class airliner with several family groups aboard crashed and burned in a muddy cornfield near suburban Hinsdale early today, minutes after taking off for Los Angeles. All 78 persons aboard were killed.
The big four-engine Constellation exploded and caught fire as it plowed into the rain-soaked ground 10 miles west of Chicago's Midway Airport.
In Washington, the FBI said it had started an investigation of the possibility that a bomb may have caused the crash.
Most of the 73 passengers were embarking on Labor Day holiday visits. Seven were members of one Los Angeles family.

The crash came shortly after a heavy thunderstorm had raked the area.
JERRY BROZ, a farmer whose house south of Hinsdale is only 150 yards from the wreckage, said he heard the big plane roar overhead, then apparently start a turn.
The big plane was heading almost due north when it struck.
"I think he was trying to land," BROZ said. “It might have been done successfully - with all the space here. But something was wrong."

The thunderous explosion caused residents of the area to look first southward, toward Argonne National Laboratories, the Atomic Energy Commission installation which is five miles southwest of the crash scene.
The blast spewed burning oil and scorched the side of BROZ' house, melting the plastic screens on windows. A big wheel assembly rocketed through the side of a corregated[sic] steel machinery shed. Inside the shed later, portions of three bodies were found.
The dead were scattered with debris over an area one-fourth by three-fourth of a mile. Scattered effects included a baby bonnet, a bathrobe, shower clogs, a partly burned dress. There were burst traveling bags and suitcases.

As morning came, a hundred or more officials and workers prepared to collect the bodies. A Red Cross emergency disaster unit crisscrossed the field, driving stakes with numbers on them into the soft mud beside each body.
Then, came the specialist team - a group of police officials. Civil Aeronautics Authority and FBI men, physicians.
The dead were taken to the Cook County Morgue in Chicago.
The plane, with a crew of five, had taken off from Boston en route to Los Angeles, with stops at New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago. The crash occurred at 2 a. m.

First reports indicating that the plane had exploded in the air and crashed in a fiery mass were emphatically challenged by several residents of the area.
CHARLES C. GEORGE, JR. said he heard the big ship's engines roar close by, looked from his bedroom window, and saw the plane's black silhouette skimming about 50 feet above a couple of small trees.
"There was a tremendous roar from the plane's engines," GEORGE said. "The next thing I saw was a huge sheet of flames as the plane hit the ground."
GEORGE HOLUB, 46, a photographer who lived nearby, said he first heard the plane's engines and detected some sputter over a straining roar. "There seemed to be engine trouble," he said. "I saw nothing, but heard the crash," he said.

A spokesman for TWA said: "The plane appeared to be coming from the north" when it crashed. "That is an unusual flight pattern" for a plane going from Chicago to Los Angeles.
The plane, leaving Midway normally would fly west. The crash scene is about 12 miles directly west of Midway Airport and about 1½ miles southwest of Hinsdale, a western suburb of some 15,000 people 20 miles west of downtown Chicago and 35 miles northwest of Hammond.
WILLIAM PAYNE, 42, a plastics worker in a plant in nearby Downers Grove, said he heard the crash and drove to the scene.
"The plane just missed the five homes in the area," PAYNE said. "It came within about 150 feet of one of the homes."

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Nancy Grant Chamberlain was

Nancy Grant Chamberlain was the daughter or Eugene L Grant who was professor at Stanford University. Her father was a pioneer in the area of Industrial Engineering and Quality Control.

not the only enlish person

are you sure silvia remnant born birkenhead merseyside son john aged 12 born birkenhead daughter beverly aged4 born birkenhead elmer remnant nationality not known trying to find out do you no

I've been reading the

I've been reading the comments from family members who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Clearly this disaster affected many. My father was a TWA Captain/Pilot. He was supposed to have been at the helm of this doomed plane as it took off out of Midway Airport, but due to a series of events he was not on that plane. My father had fallen a few weeks earlier and received a gash on his head, leaving him with a large bandage around his head. When he was cleared by the flight physician to return to active duty, the head of the flight deck decided my father's appearance might not instill confidence in passengers, so assigned him to a cargo flight instead. My father was flying a cargo flight when he heard about the disaster. It would have been his death if not for his stupid action which caused him to fall - he felt such guilt, always.

Facebook Group

I have created a group on Facebook for relatives and friends of the passengers on this flight: https://www.facebook.com/groups/241582219245634/. It is a place to share your memories and honor those we lost. Please come join us.


Chamberlain Family

I learned of this disaster after noticing the graves of six members of the Chamberlain family, all marked with 1961 as the year of death, at Fairview Cemetery in New Britain CT. Curious about the tragedy that claimed the family, I looked online (no luck) and then made some inquiries at the New Britain Public Library. There was nothing in the library's local history files (the crash was not a local event), but a research librarian found an Associated Press story that was published in the Hartford Courant.

The article is stored in a non-public database. I was not able to get or share a copy, but most of the information it contains is already available here. The only details I can add are that Mr. Chamberlain, known as "Teddy," was born and raised in New Britain, and worked as an architect in Palo Alto, CA, where he resided with his family. The Chamberlains had been visiting relatives in New Britain, and were returning home to California at the time of the crash.

The full names of family members, from their grave markers, are:

Edward North Chamberlain, born 1920
Nancy Grant Chamberlain, born 1924
Edward North Chamberlain Jr., born 1947
Richard Streeter Chamberlain, born 1952
Grant Davis Chamberlain, born 1958
James Livingston Chamberlain, born 1959

The Edward North Chamberlain family is buried in a family plot centered on the large tomb of Valentine Burt Chamberlain (1833-93), a prominent New Britain judge, former Connecticut state treasurer, and elder brother of Abiram Chamberlain (1837–1911), who served as Connecticut governor from 1903-05.

Presumably the elder Edward N. Chamberlain was Valentine B. Chamberlain's grandson.

My Uncle, Bob Aiken


My uncle, who was also 21, was a passenger on this flight, too. I never had the chance to know him. I am sorry for your loss of your friend, Roger.


My Uncle, Bob Aiken


Your grandmother and my uncle were on this same flight together. I know how it also affected my family, especially my grandmother. She carried the grief of this loss with her for the rest of her life, never really able to accept it. I am sorry that our families have this tragedy in common.


Robert M. Aiken

My uncle, Bob Aiken, was a passenger on this flight. He was my father's oldest brother, aged 21 years. He was on leave, and had just been to Boston to visit my Dad at the Berklee College of Music, and was returning to duty in NV. I know how this tragedy affected my family, especially my grandmother. My father was only 17 when it happened, so I never had the chance to know my uncle. I wish I had. In the article listing the victims, they list his last name as ALKEN instead of AIKEN, but that's my uncle. May they all be at peace.

It's hard for me to believe

It's hard for me to believe fifty years has passed since this air diaster. I was almost seven years old at the time living with my sister, mother and father at 5702 Virginia Ave., Clarendon Heights. My dad was a Clarendon Heights volunteer firefighter. When the crash occured, the noise and shaking ground awakened me from sleep. The bedroom window facing south was bright orange. This image is as vivid in my mind today as it was fifty years ago.

It was my dad's birthday.

My dad immediately jumped into his VW Microbus and drove toward the flames just a couple of streets east of our house. About an hour later, he returned home for his fire boots. He had forgotten to take them in haste to get to the scene quickly and search for survivors. I'll never forget how distrubed his face looked from what he had seen at the crash site. Through the darkness of night, one after the other, fire vehicles with lights and sirens headed south to the crash scene from 55th street.

The morning after the crash, I walked through the cornfield across the street from our house with my fourteen years old sister. Within a couple minutes, we came upon a wing's detached wheel assembly. That's as far as we went. My sister told me to pray to God for the victims.

I never knew the victims of the crash, but I have always felt an association with them having perished so close to me. I think of them often.

Emma Diehl Little

Emma Diehl Little is also my paternal grandmother. Other respondents, Don Little Jr. is my cousin and Janice Little Schafir is my aunt. I had only turned 7 years old 1 month before the crash, so I have foggy memories of the event. I do remember, however, that she had been to my house the day before the crash and probably my dad had taken her to the Pittsburgh airport. I can also remember somebody coming to our house after the crash to ask questions about her appearance and what she was wearing so she could be identified.
I have only recently begun researching my family tree and decided to look up about this crash. It appears that much of the information I have gathered over the years was correct. It is good though, to get a better understanding of the event.
She has been severely missed now for 50 years.