Falls City, NE Plane Crash, Aug 1966
Investigators hope tape recorder will yield clue to crash taking 42 lives.
FALLS CITY, Neb. (UPI) - Federal investigators said today at least one of the recorders which monitored the crash of a Braniff International jetliner into a Nebraska soybean field was so badly damaged it was useless.
However, they hoped that a tape of the conversation between veteran Capt. DONALD G. PAULY, and his co-pilot as they struggled to bring their plane out of its death spin would yield a clue as to why and how 42 persons died in the Saturday night crash.
Edward E. Slattery, Jr., chief investigator for the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) at the scene, said the flight recorder - regarded by air safety experts as a key factor in determining the cause of crashes - had received such heavy impact and fire damage that its tape could not be deciphered.
Second Tape Analyzed
But a second tape of the conversations in the plane's cockpit was less damaged and has been sent to CAB headquarters in Washington for analysis, he said.
In Washington, informed sources said it was feared that the cockpit recorder, too, was too badly damaged to yield clues.
However, the sources said, the best speculation was that the British-built BAC111 was torn apart in the sky by a violent line squall - equivalent almost to a tornado -which was swirling over southeast Nebraska.
The theory was based on the fact that one wing and the tail section of the doomed plane were found a mile from the main wreckage 11 miles northeast of Falls City.
At least two witnesses said they heard an explosion before the Kansas City-to-Omaha flight plowed into a sloping field of soybeans about 11:15 p. m. CST Saturday.
Stakes Mark Site
Today, 42 white stakes driven into the dearth[sic] marked the spots where the victims were found.
The CAB flight detectives hoped to piece together the sections of the mangled jet in the field where it crashed in hopes of discovering further clues to the cause of the disaster. A large tent was set up nearby on the ANTONE SCHWANGE farm to shelter the investigators.
The CAB investigators were joined by experts from Braniff, the British Aircraft corp., which built the plane, Rolls Royce, which manufactured its two jet engines, and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An FBI agent at the scene refused to comment -at this time- on the possibility of sabotage.
The crash was the first fatal accident of the British built BAC111 since the plane was put into passenger service more than a year ago. Seven persons were killed while the plane was being tested.
The tail section of the plane was found a mile from the remainder of the twisted wreckage after what appeared to be a violent explosion. The jet apparently plunged nearly vertically to the earth.
Witnesses said they saw a brilliant flash of light in the rainy Nebraska skies before the plane crashed. At least a dozen persons watched the plane plunge to the ground in flames.
Most of the victims - their bodies badly burned and mangled - were thrown clear of the wreckage. Searchers found them in the muddy field. The pilot was found in the cockpit, his hands gripping the controls.
The Columbus Daily Telegram Nebraska 1966-08-08
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