Elizabeth, NJ Plane Crash Kills 28, Jan 1952



Elizabeth, N. J., Jan. 22 (AP) -- A storm-buffeted airliner plunged thru fog and rain into a frame apartment house, killing former War Secretary ROBERT P. PATTERSON and at least 27 others.
All 23 aboard the Newark-bound American Airliner, including PATTERSON, perished. Four others died in their homes when the silver Convair crashed into the small apartment house and set fire to two other dwellings, bringing the death toll to 28.
Police Capt. NICHOLAS MIGLIORE said he expected the toll would go higher.
Three of the resident casualties were children. Their bodies were recovered tonight from the charred ruins. The mother of two of them was the 27th victim.
Eleven persons -- some residents and others rescue workers -- were hospitalized. Three were reported in poor condition.
The twin-engined American Airliner, attempting to land by radar, thundered out of the fog and smashed into the three-story frame building at 3:45 p.m. The Convair exploded like a bomb.
Flames shot thru two adjacent dwellings and turned the entire closely-built residential section into a crackling inferno of fire and flying debris.
Screams came from the burning building.
Caught in Heavy Fog.
The Buffalo-to-Newark plane, caught in heavy fog and rain, narrowly missed Battin High School for Girls as it rocketed down over Williamson st., 2.8 miles short of Newark Airport.
The crash ripped the frame dwelling into splinters, and turned an adjoining three-story brick apartment house and a frame duplex house into a sea of flame.
Great, fiery clouds blossomed high above the area, about half a mile from the heart of this city of 112,000. Elizabeth is about 12 miles southwest of New York City.
Hours later, 21 bodies had been recovered from the tangled wreckage.
PATTERSON, 60 years old, had been in Buffalo today on a private law case and had boarded the plane after a last-minute decision to cancel his train reservation.
In Washington, President TRUMAN called him "a great American and a great public servant" and said his death was a tremendous loss to the nation.
The 18 plane passengers also included JOHN F. CHESTER, 45, public relations director of the Carrier, Corp. of Syracuse. CHESTER was a former general business editor of The Associated Press and a war correspondent during World War 2.
In addition to the 18 passengers the plane carried a crew of three and two company personnel.
The fog-curtained plane, being "talked down" by a ground radar observer, had skimmed over the Battin school rooftop before it crashed 200 yards away. Some 1,000 girl students had been dismissed only 45 minutes before.
Area Threatened.
The raging fire, for a time, threatened the entire area, and kept rescue workers at a distance.
Some residents, near hysteria, dashed out of the blazing buildings. One small boy ran screaming, his clothing afire until a bystander stopped him and put out the flames.
"I can't find them -- I can't find them," sobbed a workman, ALBERT RAGONE, who returned home from his job and found his wife and two sons missing. The lads were found later in the ruins.
By nightfall, the fire was under control, and platoons of rescue workers clawed thru the great smoking heaps of wreckage in search of more victims.
Elizabeth's mayor JAMES T. KIRK, issued a demand for relocation of Newark airport to remove an "umbrella of danger" from the city.
Two major plane crashes have occurred here within a month.
Two Major Crashes.
Only 38 days ago -- on Dec. 16 -- a non-scheduled Neward-to-Florida transport plane crashed about a mile away from the scene of today's tragedy killing all 56 persons aboard.
JOSEPH O. FLUET, regional director of the Civil Aeronautics Board, launched an immediate on-the-spot investigation. In Washington, New Jersey Republican Senators HENDRICKSEN and SMITH demanded a thoro[sic] inquiry.
FLUET said the incoming plane, its pilot blinded by the murky weather, was being watched on an airport radar screen when it dipped out of the glide path of observation.
"There is no inference that the facility was not operating normally," he said.
The ceiling was down to 400 feet, and visibility cut to three-fourths of a mile as the plane headed for runway 6 at Newark.
Woman Screams.
"We looked out a window and saw buildings burst into flames," said a faculty member of Battin High School. "People came running out into the street. One woman was screaming 'my baby is in there.'"
The plane's pilot, Capt. THOMAS J. REID, 31, lived only three blocks from the spot where the plane crashed at 306 Willilamson st.
"There was a terrific explosion," said MRS. ANN WURTH, a nearby resident. "We ran out of the house and saw flashes of flames shooting into the sky. I picked up my boy and ran as far away as I could go."
Hundreds of townspeople thronged the rainswept area. Mounted floodlights fingered over the smashed and charred ruins, as clouds of white steam rose eerily in the glare.
Bits Litter Scene.
Bodies were passed from hand-to-hand from deep within the mounds of wreckage, and lowered to waiting stretcher bearers.
Shattered bits of furniture -- a television set, a washing machine, a child's hobby horse, personal remains of demolished homes and lives -- litered the scene.
One fragmentized piece of airplane wing, sheared off and thrown to one side by the impact, lay on the ground nearby, but other parts of the craft were concealed in the jumbled wreckage.
The plane had made stops at Rochester and Syracuse before heading for Newark.
Eight days ago, a Northeastern Airliner, also a two-engined Convair, undershot La Guardia Field, and crashed into the East River in New York city, but all 35 aboard were rescued.

Flaming death claimed the lives of eight Syracusans at 3:45 p.m. yesterday when an American Airlines twin-engined plane crashed into an apartment hours at Elizabeth, N. J. They were among 14 persons who boarded the plane at Hancock Field, Syracuse.
The plane, on a flight from Buffalo to Newark, N. J., carried 23 persons, none of whom survived. Eighteen were passengers, three crew members and two company personnel. It was being guided by radar thru rain and fog when it rammed the building and exploded, setting the frame structure afire.
At least five residents of the apartment hours were killed, with a possibility that more bodies might be found.
Persons who boarded the plane at Syracuse were:
JOHN F. CHESTER, 127 Victoria pl., director of public relations, Carrier Corporation.
CARL U. SPRIGGS, 114 Fordham rd., manager, Dealer Sales Division, Carrier Corporation.
H. LEE STERRY, 308 Gordon ave., director of product management, Carrier Corporation.
ROBERT C. GASEN, Huntleigh ave., Fayetteville, vice-president of Bristol Laboratories, Inc.
Four Syracuse U Students:
MISS BARBARA K. LEVY, sophomore in the College of Home Economics, Syracuse University. She lived at Maurice Cottage, 304 Waverly ave., and was on her way to her home at Somerville, N. J.
LEWIS FLAX, a freshman in the College of Forestry, Syracuse University. He lived at Skytop M1 and was on his way to his home in Yonkers.
MICHAEL DeSIMONE, a freshman in the College of Forestry, Syracuse University. He lived at Skytop M1 and was on his way to his home in the Bronx.
MELVIN SOKOLOW, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts, Syracuse University. He lived at the Willliam Bouck House, 608 Comstock ave., and was on his way to his home in Bayonne, N. J.
Two CAA Men:
GEORGE T. WILLIAMS, Washington, D. C., CAA, Department of Commerce.
JOHN D. RICE, Washington, D. C., CAA, Department of Commerce.
N. A. COONRAD, Columbus, O., Ohio Farm Bureau.
WILLIAM R. SCHRIEBER, 25, of 33-32 109th st., Corona, Queens, an American Airlines employe.
SALVATORE ROSS CINQUEMANI, 25, of 132-43 59th ave., Flushing, Queens, an American Airlines employe.
Buffalo Passengers:
Passengers boarding the plane at Buffalo were:
ROBERT F. PATTERSON, former secretary of war, and senior partner of PATTERSON, BELKNAP and WEBB, Wall Street law firm.
AL FRANKEL of the Fiber Tex Fabrics Company, New York city.
ALFRED FEINBERG of the Oxford Button Company, New York city.
EDWIN F. LANKES of 11 Pine Tree Lane, Gastonbury, Conn., a representative of the Detrex Corp., of Detroit and Maplewood, N. Y.
S. S. EVANS, Hidden Glen, Meadowbrook, Pa.
One passenger went aboard at Rochester. He was:
W. S. HERNON of Zachiaf Mead Lane, Greenwich, Conn., representing the HERNON-PERSALL & Co., 130 Broadway, New York city.
Members of Crew:
Crew members were:
Capt. THOMAS J. REID, 33, pilot, of 611 S. Broad st., Elizabeth, N. J. He had been with American since 1943.
LAWRENCE (BUD) SAMUEL JUDICELLO, 28, co-pilot, of 270 E. WIlkes-Barre st., Easton, Pa. With American since 1951, he was an Air Force captain during the last war.
MISS MARILYN RUTH SIEGLE, 21, stewardess, 36-20 14th st., Darby, Pa. She has been with the company since last June.

The Post-Standard Syracuse New York 1952-01-23


Elizabeth plane crash, Jan '52

My mom took me to see this crash. I was just 7 yrs old at the time, and our family had recently moved from Elizabeth to nearby Union, NJ two years before. Both Mom and Dad grew up in Elizabeth and my Mom was a Batten High graduate. I remember the wreckage of the plane, the demolished home and the near miss of the high school. I never forgot this event.

Marilyn Ruth Siegle - Stewardess was my Aunt

I am researching my family history and just entered "marilyn siegle american airlines crash" into yahoo and then I found this article. The stewardess, MARILY RUTH SIEGLE, was the elder sister to my mother, JOANNE SIEGLE. I never knew her but have heard a number of stories about the crash. the first involved my uncle. ANDREW SIEGLE, who was called to identify the remains of my aunt. His recollection did not include as much devastation as included in this article, but he did have painful memories of that time. Another story that seemed to hang over the crash involved the pilot. It was said that he frequently "buzzed" his home [3 blocks away] before landing. As a former pilot I find this hard to believe give the bad weather conditions at the time of the crash. Finally, I read the crash report. It indicated there were reported problems with an intake part on the engines and that backfiring from the plane was reported at the time of the crash. I have precious little else to add except family stories. I'm not sure, but I think my grandmother, ANN SIEGLE, received $100 per month from AA for the rest of her life.

Linda survived and her

Linda survived and her sister wrote a book..."replacement child". By Judy Mandel written in 2009.

Question Answered on Mandel's

Donna was 7 years old, she died on scene and her little sister Linda was 2 and a half and she survived.

Mandel Children

While you are correct that Donna Mandel perished as a result of the tragedy, her sister Linda did not. Donna was seven years old at the time of her death. Linda Mandel suffered second and third degree burns over eighty percent of her body and required lifelong surgeries and medical treatments as a result. She was two years old at the time of the plane crash. These details and the impact the accident had on the Mandel family are found in a book written by their sister Judy Mandel.

Elizabeth, NJ air crash of January 22, 1952

The wikipedia page references the girls, and the book their sister wrote about them. However, the wikipedia page does not reference Mr. Ragone's loss. I knew him and the family he managed to raise after losing his first one in this tragedy.

Elizabeth, NJ air crash of Jan. 22, 1952

My comment; I was living in Elizabeth when all three air crashes occurred there; 12/16/51, 01/22/52 & 02/11/52. The Jan 22 crash on Williamson street was about four blocks from my grandmother's house on S. Broad St. I remember the two young girls, sisters, who lived in one of the houses that burned. They were Donna and Linda Mandel. Their ages were around 9 & 11. I was 10. There is no mention I can find citing their names, but they were both killed in the crash. Thank you.