Kenton, OH Airplane Explosion, Mar 1967
Tragedy Near Kenton Airline's 1st
Lake Central Crash Claims 38
KENTON - An airliner flown by Lake Central's senior pilot exploded out of a stormy sky Sunday night, killing 38 persons in the airline's first crash in its 17-year history.
Wreckage from the Convair turboprop plane was scattered over snow-covered farm fields in parts of Hardin, Wyandot and Marion counties.
The main part of the fuselage fell in a soybean field near Marseilles, a town of 170 residents, 15 miles east of Kenton. About 150 officers and volunteers probed through snow and ankle-deep mud for the bodies, which were taken to a temporary morgue in unused Miflin school east of Marseilles.
The bodies were taken from the field to awaiting ambulances in tractor-pulled farm wagons.
According to state highway patrolmen, relatives identified most of the victims and many of the bodies were moved to funeral homes in their home cities. But patrolmen were unable to state how many of the victims' bodies remained to be claimed.
Investigating teams from the airline headquarters in Indianapolis and the Civil Aeronautics Board moved in to probe for the cause of the first major domestic air tragedy since a crash near Portland, Ore., took 18 lives last October.
CHARLES W. BATES, agent in charge for northern Ohio, headed the FBI delegation. A spokesman in the Cleveland office said, however, there was nothing to indicate at this time any explosive was aboard the plane.
Federal investigators said both the cockpit voice recorder and the flight recorder were found in the wreckage of the airline's first fatal crash.
The voice recorder was expected to yield a tape of the crew's last half hour of conversation. The other tape was to record altitude, heading, speed and other information throughout the flight.
"They appeared to be in reasonably good condition," CAB investigator EDWARD SLATTERY said.
He said the tapes - in their original black boxes "“ were being taken to Washington by a CAB official.
The recorder units usually contain the key to aircraft mishaps.
A Lake Central official did not rule out the possibility of an explosion before the crash.
"It's impossible to say if there was an explosion," said president of operations. "But it R. W. CLIFFORD, the airline's vice is within the realm of possibility." (Transcriber note: The above lines are shown directly as in the paper)
"The airplane obviously separated in some way before it hit the ground."
CLIFFORD and nine other Lake Central officials, including President L. L. HARDMAN, arrived here today from company headquarters in Indianapolis.
Some residents heard the first blast at 8:10 p. m., the exact time an air traffic control center in Cleveland reported it lost radar contact with the plane.
Five minutes earlier the pilot, Capt. JOHN HORN, had radioed he was climbing from 8,000 to 10,000 feet, apparently to avoid storms which swirled sleet and snow over this area.
HORN, 45 and a Lake Central pilot since the line's first flight Nov. 12, 1949, gave no indication of trouble, but residents told of one or more explosions.
"It sounded like an awful combustion and we thought there had been an automobile accident," said IRENE HECKATHORN.
"There was no fire, no lights on the plane. I even heard the engines after the first explosion. We still heard the engines after the last two explosions."
Her husband, ROBERT, found a small girl's body in their yard.
Most of the wreckage of the Convair 580, a propeller craft converted to use turbojet engines, fell a mile away on the CHARLES O. REDDING farm.
"About half the fuselage was intact," said REDDING'S son, REX. "The other half looked as if it exploded outward. The cabin looked like it had been split in two."
He said most of the bodies were within 200 yards of the wreckage.
IBER HEILMAN, a farmer living southeast of Marseilles said, "I was at home and heard an explosion and ran outside. I could hear the engines of a plane flying overhead. Then there was a second terrific explosion and everything was quiet."
"I went in the house of my son, who lives nearby, and the two of us started toward Marseilles along the country road. As we neared the crash scene we found the body of a small boy lying in the ditch about 300 yards from the plane wreckage in the field."
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