Galveston, TX Commuter Plane Crashes On Take Off, Apr 1974


Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and Houston Metro Airlines will resume this morning probinginto the Tuesday afternoon crash of a commuter plane at Galveston which killed six persons and injured six others.
The plane, carrying 10 passengers and two crew bound for Houston's Intercontinental Airport, crashed and burned shortly after takeoff about 2:50 p.m. at Galveston's Scholes Field. Witnesses said the twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft 99 appeared to have suffered a loss of power shortly after takeoff, as it plummeted to the ground and exploded into flames several hundred yards south of the runway.
The plane was making a left turn, normal procedure on takeoffs at the Galveston airport, when the crash occurred.
"It was airborne when I saw it," said CARL COOK, who lives just blocks away at a mobile home park, "when the left wing suddenly dipped, and it was instantly in flames after it hit the ground."
COOK said he saw five survivors flee the burning wreckage just seconds after the crash. The five were all apparently seated in the rear section of the plane.
Another eyewitness, TOM TOMPKINS, a pilot, said he saw the plane suddenly drop as he stood in front of his 7709 Beluche Drive residence.
"He was a good 400 feet up," TOMPKINS estimated, "when all of a sudden he just dropped. It looked like he just lost his power, his nose didn't even go down."
Five persons, including the co-pilot, were found burned to death in the wreckage, and another died hours later at John Sealy Hospital from burns.
The pilot was listed in critical condition at the hospital, while five other survivors all remained in satisfactory condition late Tuesday.
The dead were identified late Tuesday as:
PHILLIP CHARLES HILLMAN, 28, of Houston, the co-pilot.
N. A. CURLEE, 50, of Grand Prairie, Tex.
CHARLES BONNIWELL III, 37, of Corpus Christi.
TOMMY VINSON, of Fort Worth.
MRS. LEDDY JONES, age and address unknown.
JAMES FRANKEN, 47, of Pauls Valley, Okla.
FRANKEN was initially pulled alive but critically burned from the rear of the plane after Galveston firemen doused the flames, but he was pronounced dead at 10:08 p.m. at John Sealy from second and third degree burns over a large portion of his body.
A John Sealy spokesman gave the list of the injures as:
CHARLES SWEENEY, 32, of Houston, the pilot, critical condition with severe head injuries.
DR. DAVID GOLDSTEIN, 29, of 525 1st St. in Galveston, satisfactory condition with second degree burns over the head and upper body.
GEORGIA WHALE, 60, of Albuquerque, N. M., satisfactory condition with knee injuries.
CLIFFORD ADAMS, 29, of 2506 Cedar in Galveston, satisfactory condition with undetermined injuries.
A. M. GROBE, 35, of Kenner, La., satisfactory condition with a fractured leg.
MAXINE WILCOX, 43, of 2602 Meadow Lane in La Marque, satisfactory condition with back injuries.
Investigating police officers said SWEENEY may have been thrown from the plane at impact, while the other survivors miraculously escpaed the wreckage under their own power before the flames completely engulfed the plane.
FAA investigators, probing the wreckage late Tuesday, said they had not ascertained the cause of the crash. An airport spokesman said the traffic control station had been in radio contact with the aircraft before the crash, but added there was nothing said to indicate the plane was having difficulties.

Galveston Daily News Texas 1974-05-01