McGrath, AK (near) Chartered Plane Crash, Sep 1959
EIGHT REPORTED DEAD IN PLANE.
SIX YOUNG GIRLS AMONG THE VICTIMS.
YOUNG WOMEN FROM STATES SELLING MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS IN NORTH VANISH ON FLIGHT FROM KOTZEBUE.
Eight persons, including six young women, apparently went to fiery deaths last night in the crash of their twin-engine Beechcraft airplane, only 20 miles from a safe landing northwest of McGrath.
The plane was bound from Tanana to McGrath, a distance of about 160 air miles. Cause of the crash was unknown. However, the pilot reported shortly after 10 p.m. that he was low on gas and indicated he was lost.
Burned wreckage, believed to be that of the missing plane, was spotted about 8 a.m. today by an Air Force search and rescue S16 plane flying out of Elmendorf Air Force Base.
BUD PRIEST, veteran Alaskan flier, was pilot of the ill-fated ship.
The party had departed from Kotzebue yesterday afternoon, had landed at Tanana and then left for McGrath at 7:57 p.m. According to the flight plan filed by PRIEST at Tanana, the plane was to have landed at McGrath at 9:30 p.m., more than half an hour before the last radio contact was made.
The passengers, members of a magazine crew touring Alaska, stayed overnight at Rotman's Trading Post in Kotzebue which rents rooms over the store and restaurant.
STEVE SALINAS, manager of Rotman's, said C. A. BAILEY, of "Seattle and Minnesota," headed the crew of girls and departed with them on the ill-fated flight.
The girls were listed as ROSIE JOHNSON, DIANE PELSON, SHIRLEY SALAZAR and CATHY CLARK, all of Chicago; VIRGINIA S. OSERANDER, Seattle and ALBERTA McKELLOP, who gave no address.
The plane was owned by Bailey Enterprises of Anchorage.
PRIEST had a contract to fly the crew around North Country cities and villages where its members sold magazine subscriptions.
The party left Anchorage Saturday and first went to Bethel, a spokesman at Merrill Field, Anchorage, reported.
At the time of the last report, to McGrath radio, PRIEST reported he was climbing for altitude and that he was 26 miles from his destination.
There was a light rain falling in the McGrath area at the time, the Weather Bureau said.
The ceiling was 4,000 feet and there was visibility of 20 miles.
The McGrath strip lies along the Kuskoquim River in Mountainous country. Landings there require rather sharp let-downs. The hills are from 1,800 to 2,500 feet high.
According to the position PRIEST gave the McGrath tower at 10:12 p.m. he was flying a southeasterly course, 26 miles northwest of McGrath. How he happened to be in that position was not known. He was off course.
In any event, the crash probably came minutes after the last terse message cut air waves.
At the time, he was over rugged mountainous country.
Virtually all other air operations in this part of the country were halted because of the weather. Wien Alaska Airlines had most of its planes waiting out the weather on a dozen strips across the North Country.
DEFINITELY IDENTIFY PLANE WRECK.
The Federal Aviation agency reported from Anchorage shortly before noon today that wreckage discovered on a mountainside northwest of McGrath is definitely that of a twin-Beechcraft plane which crashed last night, killing eight persons.
Earlier there was some doubt as to whether it was the plane piloted by C. W. (BUD) PRIEST. The confusion followed word from Seattle that the widow of one victim had talked by telephone to her husband last night.
MRS. C. A. BAILEY, whose husband headed the magazine selling crew which was lost, said he had called her from "Bear Creek," she thought, at 9 p.m. PST, 7 p.m. here. The plane took off from Tanana at 7:57 p.m., the FAA said.
MRS. BAILEY said her husband's plane had landed because of fog.
BAILEY, 35, is from Lynchburg, Va., she told newsmen in Seattle where she has been living while he was in Alaska.
Sgt. EMERY CHAPPLE of State Police here, said he has been in contact with JEROME A. KARELLA, U.S. commissioner at McGrath, who told him he would leave immediately for the scene of the crash.
C.W. (BUD) PRIEST, pilot of the plane in which the magazine solicitation crew barnstormed Alaska, had several narrow escapes with death in his Alaskan flying career.
The most recent was in July of last year when he made a forced landing in the Interior during a similar trip with a magazine crew. The FAA reported that after last year's forced landing, PRIEST ran out of gas on a subsequent flight and had to set down in a clearing.
PRIEST, around 40, worked for Wien Alaska Airlines here as a mechanic from November of 1947 to February of 1948.
He is father of three children; PATTY, 13, JANIE, 10, and CATHY, 4. Their home is in Anchorage.
While in Fairbanks, the PREIST home was on Dale road.
Friends here said MRS. PRIEST is believed to be visiting her mother at Watson Lake in Canada and has the children with her.
At one time, PRIEST worked for Northern Consolidated Airlines at Bethel, according to reports here.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Alaska 1959-09-02
MAY RECOVER PLANE CRASH DEAD TODAY.
Sgt. EMERY CHAPPEL of the State Police was scheduled to fly to the McGrath area today to recover the bodies of eight persons who died in the crash of a twin-engine aircraft Monday night.
McGrath's U.S. Commissioner JEROME A. KARELLA informed CHAPPEL he had definitely established that eight persons, including Pilot BUD PRIEST of Anchorage, a male passenger and six young women, died in the plane.
CHAPPEL said the plane did not burn, contrary to earlier reports. However, it did explode and parts of bodies were scattered over a wide area.
The commissioner was having difficulty in establishing proper identification and determining addresses of next of kin.
CHAPPLE said KARELLA visited the death scene yesterday but an inquest will not be conducted until all possible evidence is collected.
Names of the dead were learned from Kotzebue where they spent a night before the takeoff for McGrath by way of Tanana in the twin-engine Beechcraft.
Bad weather over the entire area could delay the troopers' plans to get in to the scene of the crash, some 30 miles northwest of McGrath. PRIEST had radioed McGrath shortly before the accident that he was 26 miles to the northwest of the field and running low on gas.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Alaska 1959-09-03