Detroit, MI British Bomber Crashes, Oct 1958

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Detroit (AP) -- A British jet bomber on a combined goodwill and training mission exploded and crashed in flames in a Detroit riverfront residential area yesterday. It just missed a big hospital. None of the residents of the neighborhood were killed although three houses were torn apart by the flaming wreckage and at least a score more were damaged. Almost unbelievably, only two residents required hospital treatment.
The plane carried a crew of six.
At Lincoln, England, the Royal Air Force said it held faint hope one crewman had time to use his ejector seat and parachute safely. However, no survivor had been found in more than 12 hours. Bits, no more, of bodies were strewn among the debris.
The huge bomber -- 95 feet long with a 100-foot wingspan and weighing about 70 tons -- fell only about 1,000 feet short of a riverfront U.S. Public Health Service Hospital, which has 17 patients and a staff of 30.
Witnesses said the falling plane was on a line with the hospital and "a couple more seconds and she would have landed right in the middle of it."
Trailing smoke and flame, the triangular delta-wing Vulcan roared tree-top high, clipping leaves and branches in an apparent desperate attempt to make the river.
But before it reached the water it blew apart with a tremendous explosion.
"It sounded like it would take the roof right off the house," said a witness. "There was this terrible thunderclap and then the plane burst into a big ball of fire. The whole sky turned red."
The British Air Ministry in London sad the ship was from the 83rd Squadron of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command based at Waddington Air Base near Lincoln, England.
Its captain, Flt. Lt. JOHN WILLOUGHBY MOORE, carried a message of good will from the mayor of that city to the mayor of Lincoln, Neb., near headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Air Command.
The rest of the crew were:
Flt. Lt. BRIAN PEACOCK, Co-pilot.
Sqdn. Ldr. HARVEY J. SCULL, Navigator.
Flt. Lt. JAMES D. WATSON, Navigator.
The area of the crash is one of two-story frame homes, a few block from fashionable Grosse Pointe Park with its large Lake St. Clair estates.
Exploding fuel tanks of the four-engine bomber sprayed a five-block area. A number of persons reported slight injuries.
MR. and MRS. OTTO EWALD were in their home when a fragment of the plane plowed into it. EWALD, 72, managed to get out, but a stuck door trapped his 65-year-old wife. A neighbor, MICHAEL DURKIN came to their aid.
"MRS. EWALD was screaming for help," DURKIN said. "She was on fire. Their dog was on fire too."
Between them, DURKIN and EWALD freed the woman.
She and her husband were taken to a hospital. The Collie dog, Lassie, was found safe, cooling her singed tail in a nearby canal.
Several boathouses and small pleasure craft moored on the network of channels that lace the area were damaged by the fallout.
Debris also showered down on a grade school playground crowded with children. Fortunately none was hurt.
The area was devastated.
Torn-down power lines blazed eerily on the wet pavement as gas company workers ripped pavements and lawns to cap mains. Rain turned the earth to mud. Armed police patroled the littered streets to prevent looting and forestall accidents. One detail sifted the wreckage for bodies.
Boat crews, meanwhile, searched the river and lake for the missing airmen. Officials of Selfridge Air Force Base at Mount Clemens said a dawn air hunt would be launched.
The crash was the second within the city limits in five days. Monday night a private plane crashed in a cemetery, injuring three.

Daily Globe Ironwood Michigan 1958-10-25

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