Elko, NV Plane Crashes On Attempted Landing, Sep 1946




Elko, Nev., Sept. 5. (U.P.) -- A twin-engined New York-to-San Francisco trans-luxury airliner crashed and burned on a fog-bound desert mountain during an attempt to land at the Elko airport today, killing all the passengers and crewmen except a two-year-old boy whose frightened sobs amidst the bodies rose over the sound of crackling flames.
Twenty-one persons, including an infant, were killed. Several of the dead were army or navy servicemen. Elko General Hospital attendants believed the surviving boy will recover from bruises and chest injuries.
In Washington, D. C., the civil aeronautics administration said the huge airliner was flying in "direct violation" of federal safety rules when it crashed.
A CAA spokesman said the ceiling at Elko was 200 feet, with scud clouds at 100 feet. The minimum ceiling under which planes are supposed to land there is 2500 feet, he said.
Non-scheduled air carriers were brought under CAA safety regulations Aug. 1. One of the regulations specified that charter carriers must observe the same restrictions on landing in bad weather as scheduled operators.
Attendants at the Elko hospital reported that the boy's uncle telephoned from Brooklyn, N. Y., early this afternoon identifying him as PETER LINK.
The uncle, whose name was not available here, gave the child's age as two. He said his parents, JOSEPH and ANN LINK, were en route with PETER and a six-months-old baby to the west coast. Both parents and the younger child died in the twisted wreckage.
Asks For Mother.
Young PETER, a slender blue-eyed child with reddish-blonde hair, cried intermittently during the afternoon. Nurses said he began to ask for his mother.
However, he smiled and laughed excitedly at news photographers exploding flash bulbs around his crib.
Between naps he refused to play with a little toy airplane, a rubber doll and several colored balloons brought to the hospital by sympathetic Elko residents.
"It's going to be hard to give him up," one nurse said. "Everybody in the hospital -- in fact, everybody in Elko -- has fallen in love with him."
"He's such a sweet-looking little boy."
Hospital attendants described PETER'S condition as "good" tonight and said he apparently had suffered no serious injury.
20 Bodies Identified.
Ex-Office Coroner ROY WOODS, meanwhile, reported that 20 of the 21 bodies had been identified and that all 21 had been removed to the Burns Funeral Home in Elko.
A Mare Island, Calif., Negro called from that city identified one of the women victims as his wife, by means of a blue ring she was wearing. He told Red Cross authorities he became alarmed after reading newspaper accounts of the crash.
Eighteen bodies were recovered outside the ripped-open plane and three were taken from the smouldering inside. Bodies were scattered over a 300-foot radius from the sprawling wreckage, a bare two miles from Elko airport.
When rescuers approached, they found the injured baby crawling through the sagebrush, crying as he pulled himself painfully over the rough ground.
Saw Field Lights.
CHRIS SHEERIN, editor of the Elko Daily Free Press, and other witnesses said three additional bodies still remained close together,m virtually consumed by flames, in the forward sections of the hot plane.
The plane, piloted by KENNETH CAMPBELL, Bottineau, N. D., contacted the civil aeronautics authority radio operated at Elko at 1:21 a.m. He said he could see the lights of the field -- despite the low ground fog -- and was coming in for a landing.
That was the last radio contact with the plane.
At 2:04 a.m. a United Airlines plane flying eastward reported to GEORGE SUTHERLAND, United's night manager in Elko that he saw a fire burning below Sutherland called Sheriff CHARLES SMITH and with Fire Warden ERWIN LAMBER CAA Inspector SHOBE AMBLER and Mortician ROBLEY BURNS they drove to the mountainside.
Woman Unconscious.
They found the wrecked plane three-quarters of a mile off transcontinental highway number 40.
"As we approached the flaming plane," said BURNS, "we found a woman in the brush unconscious but alive. She was later identified aas IRENE BARALUS, Brooklyn, N. Y. She died shortly afterward.
"Then I told the men to be quiet, I heard a baby crying. He was bawling something awful. I went over and picked him up. He had been thrown clear of the plane and was sitting there on the hillside. His crying was loud enough to be heard over the crackle of the flames."
RUSSELL PLANK, state highway patrolman said:
"I thought I saw a woman sitting up against the sagebrush. As I approached her in darkness, I thought she was alive and just sitting there. But when I came closer. I could see that the lower part of the body was almost gone and she was dead. It was horrible."
Bodies were found in various positions and stages of destruction around the plane. SHEERM found part of the plane 306 feet distant from the main section of the wreckage.
Airport Manager WILLIAM WONDERLICH said investigation showed the wheels of the plane were down and that both propellors apparently had been turning normally. Some observers believed the pilot may have mistaken a beacon light for one of the main lights of the field.
It was the second major crash for the charter service Trans-Luxury Airlines within the past 15 days. A DC-3 operated by the company crashed at the Moline, Ill., airport on Aug. 21, killing the pilot and co-pilot. The stewardess and 23 passengers escaped death or serious injury even though some were hurled to the ground from heights of about 10 feet when the plane split open with the impact.
In today's crash the fuselage burst open like a split banana when the plane struck. SHEERIN said the plane slewed completely around, the wing folding back to the right and left and tearing away from the fuselage.
The airliner had left Newark, N. J. at noon (EDT) yesterday and was due in San Francisco at 9 a.m. (PST) today. The airport serving this city of 5,000 population is a regular stop on the trans-luxury route.
It lies in a low pocket amidst the low desert mountains surrounding Elko and is flanked by two ranges which pilots must drop over to come over the runway. The plane ccrashed on the second range one quarter mile from the field's edge.
WUNDERLICH reported that the Elko airport had one of the worst ground fog conditions of the year today. He said persons at the airport could hardly see their own head lights.
The American Red Cross issued this partial list of identified dead:
ROBERT OWEN, civilian YMCA, Brooklyn, N. Y.
GEORGE HENRY AMAN, civilian, New York City.
PAUL EDWARD LINK, USN, no address.
JOSEPH BADARM, civilian.
ROBERT W. TRABONT, U. S. army, no address.
BERNARD GOTTSFIELD, U. S. army, no address.
ROBERT F. GETSON, U. S. army, no address.
HAROLD ELMOS LAUDERVILLE, civilian, no address.
JIMMY BATALUS, merchant marine, Brooklyn.
ANTHONY N. DE FILLIPO, U. S. army, Brooklyn.
GUISEPPE M. MUSSMEER, navy, Brooklyn.
ZAREN A. ASLEMAN, civilian, no address.
KENNETH CAMPBELL, the pilot, Bottineau, N. Dak.
CLARA CROSS, Dairen, Conn., Negro woman.
HARRY LEIBERMAN, Miami, Fla., co-pilot.
MARJORIE COX, San Francisco, stewardess.
O. L. PAYNE, civilian, no address.
The LINK'S six-months-old Infant.
One victim still remained unidentified.

Nevada State Journal Reno Nevada 1946-09-06