Chicopee, MA Air Force Jet Plane Explodes, June 1958

AIR FORCE JET PLANE EXPLODES AFTER WESTOVER TAKEOFF.

15 DIE IN FIERY CRASH.

6 REPORTERS AMONG VICTIMS; TANKER SOUGHT SPEED RECORD.

Westover Air Force Base, June 27 (AP) -- A jet tanker plane attempting a transatlantic speed record crashed and exploded seconds after takeoff early today, killing all 15 aboard.
Observers said the giant KC135 jet tanker hit high tension wires about a mile and a half from its takeoff runway.
The explosion disintegrated the plane into hundreds of pieces, the largest of which was described as no bigger than a chair.
Among the victims were six newsmen who were to cover the flight of four air force planes attempting to break records for aircraft speed in crossing the Atlantic in both directions.
Commander Aboard.
Also on board was Brig. Gen. DONALD W. SAUNDERS, Athens, N. Y., airborne commander in charge of the operation.
The plane was the third of the four-plane flight to take off. The first two got off on schedule and headed directly for London.
The fourth plane was on the runway ready to take off at the time of the crash. That flight was canceled.
With the first light of dawn, rescue workers found 14 bodies scattered over a wide area. The 15th body was jammed in the wreckage.
Parts of the flaming wreckage set fire to trees and brush hundreds of yards away.
The crashing plane gouged out a big section of the Massachusetts Turnpike and a 10-mile stretch was closed because of the damage.
Heard Crash.
KAZIMIERZ MARHOWSKI, 45, on whose property the plane crashed said: "I heard the plane taking off as I was lying in bed. In a very little while, I heard a terrific explosion. I ran outside and it was brighter than daylight from the burning plane. The heat from the wreckage was so terrific it wasn't possible to get near it. Wreckage was all over the countryside. Nobody could have lived in that crash."
Normal Takeoff.
Westover air force officials said the plane had made a normal takeoff and was airborne. They added that it broke ground at the exact point of prediction on the runway and appeared to be flying normally.
It skidded across the Massachusetts Turnpike -- one of the state's busiest highways -- before blowing up with a roar on the MACHOWSKI property.
Wreckage was strewn for an estimated three quarters of a mile.
Patrolman RICHARD HASLAM, 34, Chicopee, was one of the first on the scene.
"I radioed headquarters," he said, "that there was no need for any ambulances. Nobody on board had a chance."
Civilians.
The civilians killed in the crash were:
DANIEL J. COUGHLIN, 31, Boston, Associated Press newsman.
NORMAN MONTELLIER, 37, New York City, United Press International newsman.
GLENN A. WILLIAMS, 41, Bethesda, Md., associate editor of U. S. News and World Report.
ROBERT A. GINSBURGH, 63, aslo associate editor of U. S. News and World Report, who joined the magazine in Washington, D. C., after retiring as an Air Force brigadier general and aide to four secretaries of defense.
JAMES L. McCONAUGHY, JR., chief of the Washington bureau of Time and Life magazine.
ROBERT SIBLEY, 57, Belmont, Mass., aviation editor of the Boston Traveler.
WILLIAM COCHRAN, representing the National Aeronautical Assn.
WILLIAM ENYART, also representing the National Aeronautical Assn.
Military.
The military men killed, in addition to Gen. SAUNDERS, were:
Lt. Col. GEORGE BROUTSAS, Brattleboro, Vt., commander of the KC135.
Lt. JOSEPH C. SWEET, Chandler, Ariz.
Capt. JAMES SHIPMAN, Kansas City, Kan.
Capt. JOHN B. GORDON, Raleigh, N. C.
M/Sgt. DONALD H. GABBARD, Los Gatos, Calif.
T/Sgt. JOSEPH G. HUTTER, Miami, Fla.
The four planes were to have attempted record speed flights between New York, London and return.

THEN I HEARD A TERRIFIC BOOM
Chicopee, June 27 (AP) -- The plane crash KAZIMIERZ MACHOWSKI, 45, long had feared happened shortly after midnight.
"We were always scared," said MACHOWSKI who lives with his wife, ANNA, and their four children a mile from Westover air force base.
He was upset when he retired last night. He knew four planes were scheduled to take off at midnight in an attempt to shatter the record for a transatlantic flight.
"I wasn't asleep yet," he said, "I heard the planes taking off and then next ... I heard a terrific boom."
He realized immediately what had happened. A big jet had come down in the family garden where the first hoots of corn and potatoes were poking through the fertile farmland.
"I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs," MACHOWSKI said. "It was brighter than daylight, many times brighter. I grabbed the telephone, I thought, 'Maybe somebody can be saved.'"
"I told the operator, 'Get me emergency. Any kind of emergency.'"
"She asked 'What kind of emergency is it ?'"
"I said, 'A plane crash from Westover.'"
MACHOWSKI then ran into the yard.
"The heat from the wreckage was unbearable," he said. "It drove me back inside."
Then he knew no one could possibly have survived.
MACHOWSKI said his entire family was "terrified by the crash and the brilliant light."
He seemed very tired. He shook his had sadly and said:
"We've always been scared living here."

The Fitchburg Sentinel Massachusetts 1958-06-27

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Comments

Article on the Westover Plane Crash

Thank you for posting this.... My great grandfather was on this plane, Bobby Sibley.... although I have not been able to locate much content on this, the article was very helpful ;)

Thank You

Meredith
You are very welcome ... Thank you so much for writing and your comments ..
Sincerely
Stu Beitler

We woke up

We were little at the time, and lived on Fuller Road. I remember being woken up by a huge roar, the house shook like an earthquake. We all went down there, and i remember the wheels of the aircraft had almost reached the road, and lots of fire. It was very scary. Also, a fighter from Westover came so low over our house once that it clipped the TV antenna, almost.

Survivors

I am curious to contact the the 3rd gen survivors of this tragic event as well and discuss childhood cause and effect. Its been on my mind... I do have a story to tell myself, having my mother and her sister in the 50's witness this this and would like to write a book. Please contact me :)