Dawson, TX Airplane Crash, May 1968
84 DIE IN WORST TEXAS AIR DISASTER
Tragedy Occurs During Storm
DAWSON, Tex. (AP) - A Braniff International Electra with 84 persons aboard exploded or caught first while flying through a turbulent rainstorm Friday and crashed into Central Texas creek bottomlands. There were no survivors.
The four-engine turboprop plane slammed to earth shortly before 5 p. m. and scattered pieces of debris and bodies over a half mile square area.
It was Braniff's Flight 352 en-route from Houston to Dallas, and marked Texas' worst air travel disaster.
Most of the wreckage was gouged into a 75-by-75-yard section of an abandoned farm three miles northeast of Dawson or some 90 miles south of Dallas.
The largest pieces were four or five almost-intact seats. First witnesses at the scene said apparently no bodies were intact. Many were burned.
"I looked up and there were flames all over the plane and it went down," said JERRY MERRILL, a Dawson high school mathematics teacher.
Authorities picked up pieces of bodies in sacks and sheets and took them to the high school gymnasium.
The FBI dispatched a disaster squad to help state police and Braniff officials identify the victims.
The flight lest Houston at 4:11 p. m., eleven minutes late, and Braniff said the last radio contact was at 4:14, when the pilot said his estimated arrival time in Dallas was 5:03, or five minutes late. It was to have proceeded on to Tulsa, Fort Smith, Little Rock and Memphis.
Five crewmen and 79 passengers perished. Braniff identified the crew, all based in Dallas, as: Capt. J. R. PHILLIPS, First Officer JOHN W. "JACK" FOSTER, Second Officer STEVE W. CROSSLAND, hostess JO CAROL BRAND, originally of Taylor, N. D., and hostess SUZANNE RENZ, originally of South Orange, N. J.
The airline said it might be noon Saturday before all the names of the passengers were made public.
JERRY STRADER, publisher of the Corsicana Sun, was one of the first at the scene.
"I saw no survivors, no bodies intact," he said. "At least 50 percent of the bodies appeared to be burned."
"The pieces of the plane were just fragmentary. The largest piece I saw was just a portion of the landing gear."
Heavy rail and hail hampered initial rescue teams trying to get to the scene.
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