New Orleans, LA Plane Crashes Into Motel, Mar 1967
18 DIE AS AIRPLANE CRASHES INTO MOTEL.
New Orleans, La. (AP) -- A DC8 jet flying a practice landing pattern cut a swath of destruction through a residential area near New Orleans International Airport early Thursday and exploded in a fiery crash into the rear of the Hilton Inn, killing 18 persons.
Nine of the dead were high school girls from Juda, Wis. All but one burned to death in their rooms as flames fed by jet fuel engulfed a portion of the motel. The ninth girl was blown out of the building.
The tragedy occurred only hours before the girls were scheduled to leave with their classmates for some fun on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. They were on a senior class vacation outing.
On board the Delta Air Line jet were five pilots and an inspector for the Federal Aviation Agency. All were killed when the plane fell sharply during a banking turn, sliced through two homes and cartwheeled into the multimillion-dollar motel.
Spewing fuel from the exploding craft set off an inferno near the section where the Wisconsin pupils were quartered.
"It spouted a sea of fuel right in those rooms where those eight kids were staying," said Capt. Marvin Leonard of the New Orleans Police Department.
"That's what killed them, not the impact from the wreckage. You could see where they took refuge in the shower stalls. One girl even took her purse with her. They turned on the water but it didn't do them any good."
A Catholic priest said last rites over the huddled, charred bodies. A mass memorial burial was planned in Juda.
The remaining 23 students and their advisors arranged to leave by train Thursday for home.
"The students are taking it fine," said JEROME KALK, superintendent of the school district in Juda, a town of 300 in the dairyland of Wisconsin.
"They are a very close knit group, a mature level-headed group. The children have been fed and clothed. We will escort the bodies back on the train."
The uninjured pupils, and most of the other guests at the motel, ran in panic from their rooms when the jet struck about 1 a.m. Many were in night clothes. At least 11 were injured.
"As it hit, it exploded and one huge ball of flame seemed to roll right into the back of the motel along with the flying pieces from the airplane," said Stan Olson, an advisor to the touring pupils. "As the plane exploded, doors of rooms opened and students streamed out screaming, petrified by fear."
In addition to the pupils and the six on board the plane killed, a mother and her son living in one of the houses demolished by the careening plane lost their lives. A maintenance man at the motel was killed also.
Officials said as many as 30 or 40 guest units were destroyed or damaged.
No financial estimate of the destruction was available.
A Civil Aeronautics Board team arrived from Washington to investigate the crash, the first air tragedy here since February 1964 when 58 persons died in the crash of an Eastern Air Lines jet into Lake Pontchartrain.
The Delta plane's flight recorder, which registers all panel instruments, was found intact among the wreckage strewn for about 100 yards around the scene. A voice recorder was recovered from the tail assembly, which ended up inside the motel structure.
The DC8 was the oldest such plane in use by Delta Air Lines. It made the first scheduled passenger DC8 flight in 1959, from New York to Atlanta. The craft had been airborne only nine minutes before the crash. It had been used on a regular passenger run from Chicago shortly before the training flight.
Another group of pupils from Olympia Fields, Ill., was staying at the motel. Their rooms were not in the destroyed area.
"We all looked up and it looked like the plane was coming right at us," said JANE BENNETT, 17, senior from Rich Central High School. She was returning to the inn from the airport across the highway.
"I started running toward the flames. Some of the guys began chasing me but they couldn't catch me. A couple of us girls fell to the ground and began crying. I've got grass stains on my trousers. I had never seen anything like it in my life."
Another witness said the impact "sounded like a giant whoof. The plane was covered in flames like a ball of fire."
Part of the airport and surrounding area was blacked out by the crash. All available fire-fighting equipment was rushed to the scene, about 15 miles from downtown New Orleans.
Chief pilot MAURICE EDWARD WATSON, of Harahan, La., was qualifying J. W. MORTON, of Covington, La., to fly the big jet liner. It was not known who was at the controls when the craft went down.
One of the pilots on board was GEORGE PIAZZA II, an attorney for a keg figure in Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison's John F. Kennedy assassination probe. PIAZZA was counsel for James Lewallen, a former roommate of David W. Ferrie, the man Garrison alleges was part of an assassination conspiricy here. PIAZZA was both a lawyer and a pilot.
There were no signs or calls of distress from the plane before the crash.
The night was balmy with a nearly full moon.
Avalanche Journal Lubbock Texas 1967-03-31
ANOTHER VICTIM'S BODY FOUND; PLANE CRASH TOLL NOW 19.
Kenner, La. (UPI) -- Another body was found near the Hilton Inn Motel Friday, bringing the death toll from Thursday's Delta DC8 crash to 19.
The body discovered late Friday afternoon and tentatively identified as that of CLARENCE JOHNSON, an 18 year-old dishwasher at the motel. He had been missing since leaving work shortly before the crash.
Civil Aeronautics Board investigators learned Friday that the pilot of the airliner gave no sign he was in trouble. His last words to the control tower was "fine."
The huge plane slashed through three homes Thursday and exploded into a ball of fire against the Hilton Motel Inn.
Killed were the six occupants of the plane, a hotel employe, two persons in one of the houses, and nine Juda, Wisconsin high school girls, eight huddled in a running shower water in the motel, trying vainly to escape the flames.
The bodies of the girls were to be flown to O'Hare Field in Chicago Saturday on a special Delta plane.
But they were harder to identify than expected and it was mid-morning Friday before they were taken to a funeral home.
The girls were:
DOREEN K. WILLIAMS, 17, Monroe, Wis.
ELVA JEAN SMITH, 17, Juda, Wis.
JANICE CLAUDIA SIEDSCHLAG, 17, Juda.
NANCY MAE SIEGENTHALER, 18, Monroe.
LINDA LOU HARTWIG, 17, Juda.
SHEILA KAE BABLER, 17, Monroe.
JOYCE LOUISE KADERLY, 17, Juda.
SANDRA MAE GOECKS, 18, Juda.
LINDA KAE MOE, 18, Juda.
CHARLES IMHOFF, JR., 36, assistant engineer at the Hilton Inn, died in his boiler room.
MRS. SHELLY WHITTINGTON and her 13-year-old son, SHELLY CLARENCE WHITTINGTON, JR., were killed when the plane sliced through their home.
Killed on board the plane were:
WILLIAM P. JETER, JR., 33.
MAURICE EDWARD WATSON, 45.
JAMES M. MORTON, 47.
DAVEY E. POSEY, 25.
GEORGE PIAZZA, II, 36.
All Delta fliers, and,
WILLIAM G. SNOW, a Federal Aviation Agency Inspector from Houston.
Eleven other persons were injured. Two remained hospitalized Friday.
FRANK WILSON, a training officer in the airport tower, had the following radio conversation with MORTON, presumably at the controls of the DC8 two and one half minutes before the plane crashed:
Tower -- "Delta 9877 clear touch and go (landing) or cleared to land Runway 1."
Plane -- "Okay. You want to take off south?"
Plane -- "Be fine."
The conversation was recorded on magnetic tape in the tower. The plane's flight recorder was also being checked in Washington. It may be able to tell investigators what happened in the seconds before the crash.
Edward E. Slattery, Jr., a CAB spokesman, said information from the flight recorder and voice recorder in the plane could not be released until a formal CAB hearing, in about two months.
CAB investigators looked through the wreckage and talked to witnesses Thursday night and Friday.
McKEE said that the airport tower, after clearing the DC8 for landing, was not concerned longer with the plane.
Argus Fremont California 1967-04-01