Sandia Mountains, NM TWA Airliner Crashes, Feb 1955
AIR LINER SEARCH CONTINUES.
16 ABOARD TWA PLANE FEARED DOWN IN WILD COUNTRY NORTH OF HERE.
One of New Mexico's biggest air and ground searches was expected to swing into its second day at dawn today in an effort to locate a vanished TWA airliner carrying 16 persons.
The twin-engined Martin 404 took off at 7 a.m. Saturday from the Albuquerque airport for a 29-minute hop to Santa Fe. Three minutes later Pilot I. R. SPONG of Prairie Village, Kas., radioed that the plane was off the ground and on its way.
Then there was silence.
Five New Mexico residents were aboard the plane. They are HOMER D. BRAY, 817 Grandview SE; MISS LOIS DEAN, 907 Richmond SE; the Rev. EARL F. DAVIS, 501A Quincy NE; WORTH H. NICHOLL, Elks Club, and DR. ROBERT BALK, Socorro.
Saturday's rumor-filled but unsuccessful search by ground and air, hampered to the north by viloent snowstorms, was to be resumed at dawn today with some 50 planes and perhaps as many as a thousand ground searchers taking part.
Despite bitter cold, many searchers maintained vigil throughout the night, watching for fires or flares that might indicate the presence somewhere in the mountainous, broken area of survivors of a forced landing.
Just before midnight OLIVER PADILLA of Santa Fe reported to state police that he spotted what appeared to be a distress signal as he topped the crest of La Bajada Hill on US-85. Police had not found anything early today.
Albuquerque's Fire Chief ART WESTERFELD long after dark radioed that in a jeep he had seen one fire that looked as if it might be the kind sought, flaring on lonely Rowe Mesa between Las Vegas and Santa Fe. Search crews were going in to investigate.
State Police headquarters in Santa Fe said a second fire was seen near the isolated community of Palma, near Clines Corners of US-85 due south of Rowe. A car was dispatched to the scene, but was stopped before reaching it by a flat tire and snow.
Could see No Fires.
Officers said a civil air patrol plane flew over Rowe Mesa and could see no fires, such as WESTERFELD reported. Four scheduled planes, flying over the mesa and not participating in the search, said they had seen no fires.
Headquarters said ground crews into the vast tabletop mesa would await morning when it's possible the plane could be pinpointed from the air.
WESTERFELD said he and BOB WILLIAMS of the Albuquerque Civil Defense Unit climbed the Ortiz mountains between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and just at sunset "spotted two fires through field glasses. They appeared were in canyons at the edge of the mesa."
"It may not be them," he said, "but it's a good hunch. We went around by the area but we never did locate the fires after we left that peak."
Earlier, reports were heard that a plane had been seen and heard that a plane had been seen and heard near Santo Domingo Pueblo; near Jemez Pueblo; over Madrid; over Montezuma; over Las Vegas range stations, and at other points. All the reports were checked out as fully as weather conditions permitted. None bore fruit.
Boy Hears Crash.
About 8:30 p.m. HENRY GONZALES, JR., 12, son of a couple living in the Cienega area near Turquoise Trading Post about 15 miles toward Albuquerque from Santa Fe, told his aunt in Albuquerque of having heard a low-flying plane and then a crash in the Cienega Mountains near his home, early Saturday.
MRS. A. GUTIERREZ, the aunt, of 1213 Farelas SW, told the Journal that her nephew had not known a plane was down until he arrived in Albuquerque to visit her Saturday evening. State Police said they would check out the report.
Major A. H. PERRY of the Civil Air Patrol said some 50 members of the CAP, formed into 25 two-man teams, spent the night out in the field Saturday, braving temperatures ranging well below zero to keep a watch for fires or other signs of the downed plane.
Some planes ranged over the rugged country well into the night, but most were grounded until morning.
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