Holyoke, MA Air Force Plane Crashes, Nov 1955



Holyoke, Nov. 5 (UP) -- Grim search for a crashed Air Force C-47 and four missing men was narrowed tonight to a 300-yard stretch of the turbulent Connecticut River.
A helicopter first reported spotting the ill-fated military transport plane beneath the surface, then lost it in the muddy torrent.
However, an oil slick appeared in the same area and grappling hooks dredged up small parts of the plane.
The search concentrated tonight in an area 300 yards square. The water in that part of the stream is about 30 feet deep, but so muddy that observers on the banks could not see six inches beneath the surface.
The missing airmen, feared trapped in the plane, were identified as:
Capt. WILMER R. PAULSEN of Stockton, Calif., married and father of three children, living at Westover Air Force base.
Airman Second Class JOHN CARRIGAN of Rutland, Vt., attached to Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C.
Airman Second Class GERALD J. JOLICOEUR of Augusta, Me., attached to Lake Charles AFB, La.
Navy Pharmacist's Mate EMANUEL CASSERLY of Washington, D.C., attached to USS Charles R. Ware, location unknown.
Four others swam 100 yards to shore last night after the military transport plane plunged into the rain-swollen stream. The plane was bound from Washington to Westover Air Force base where officials said they received a radio message minutes before the crash, reporting engine trouble.
The Air Force at first reported the plane had been spotted by a helicopter hovering over the river. However, the helicopter was unable to find the dim outline a second time and grappling hooks failed to turn up the main body of the wreck.
"We thought we had it once. But then we didn't," an Air Force spokesman said, "It's too muddy to see much even from the air."
Three feet above its normal level after 48 hours of rain, the river was rushing toward the sea at 10 to 15 miles per hour.
The search was directed by Air Force Col. E. D. REYNOLDS of Westover, a wing commander.
The four who swam ashore before the plane sank were Navy Capt. HENRY C. NICHOLS, 58, Salem; First Lt. JOSEPH DELAURENTIS, 40, South Hadley Falls; T-Sgt. RICHARD GERHARD, 32, Rochester, N.Y.; and Sgt. ALEX WEREMEICHIK, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
All but WEREMEICHIK were released after hospital treatment at Westover AFB.
Some 250 airmen and police swarmed along the soggy banks of the 400-foot wide stream in hopes that the four missing men might somehow have reached shore and collapsed while seeking help.
ARTHUR GASKILL, United Press Movietone news photographer, said, "You couldn't see six inches beneath the surface. The river is that muddy. It looks like the Mississippi."
As the search wore on, hopes for the missing four began to fade. All were wearing parachutes when the plane came down in a pancake landing. The ship sank in a few minutes.
"I got the chute off and made a dive for the door," NICHOLS said. "I saw another fellow go out the door just ahead of me."
Two divers stood by through the day, prepared to risk the muddy torrent and enter the plane. Police boats dragged grappling hooks along the bottom, hampered by the swirling, eddying current.
MRS. PEARL KELLER, 31, a nearby resident, told of hearing a "sputtering" airplane engine just before midnight last night.
"Then I looked out the window and saw lights coming out of the air and heading for the river. A splash followed," she said.
One of the survivors, believed to be DELANRENTIS or GERHARD, came to her house minutes later and called for help. Search for the missing men started at once, in spite of darkness and driving rain.

Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1955-11-06