Washington, DC Plane Crashes Into Potomac River, Dec 1949
FOUR DIE, 19 ESCAPE DEATH IN CRASH OF AIRLINER IN POTOMAC.
TWO PASSENGERS AND THE PILOTS KILLED; MANY SERIOUSLY HURT.
Washington, Dec. 13 (AP) -- A Capital Airliner wandered off a radar path leading into fog-bound National Airport last night and crashed in the mud of the Potomac River, carrying four of the 23 persons on board to their death.
The 19 survivors -- an amazingly high number for a plane crash -- were taken to the hospital at Bolling Air Force Base, located nearby. Many were badly hurt.
Government officials said plans for a prompt inquiry into the cause of the crash.
The dead were MRS. WILLIAM CHERTOW, of 35 Tennis Court, Brooklyn, N. Y.; NEVILLE LASSITER, a government employe who lived in Arlington, Va.; and the pilot and co-pilot, W. J. DAVIS and LLOYD L. PORTER, both of Alexandria, Va.
The bodies of DAVIS and PORTER were recovered from the partly submerged wreckage hours after the crash. Workers hacked away at the fuselage through the night to get at the two bodies, which were visible in the water-covered cockpit by the light of rescue lamps.
Navy and Air Force men who sped to the scene in crash boats credited a number of factors for the high rescue rate. High on the list were luck and the relative calm of the survivors -- most of them servicemen going home to spend Christmas.
In addition, there were reports that the plane's wheels were not in landing position, but were retracted into the fuselage. If true, this would indicate that the pilot had changed his mind about landing. It may have kept the death toll down in preventing the plane from turning completely over in the river's mud. With the wheels up, a comparative smooth water landing was possible.
The plane, a DC-3 had taken off from Memphis, Tenn., and had made one stop at Norfolk, Va. It arrived over Washington during what officials called one of the worst traffic days in the history of the National Airport.
The field was blanketed by fog and soaked by a steady rain. Weather conditions were described as "approximately minimum" -- 400-foot ceiling and visibility of about three-quarters of a mile.
The DC-3 took its place over the field in a "stack" of planes which at one time numbered 40 aircraft, all waiting for a chance to land. After about an hour, the Capital Airliner started down, guided by its own electronic equipment, and by ground-controlled radar at the airport.
As it came down the approach, officials related, it suddenly swerved from the radar path. Ground technicians lost it completely. A short time later it was found in the river close by Bolling, resting in five feet of mud and water. The crash scene was not far from the spot where the shattered pieces of an Eastern Airliner carried 55 to their death in the Potomac last November 1, after an aerial collision with a surplus P-38 fighter plane.
The Daily Mail Hagerstown Maryland 1949-12-13