Long Island, NY Airplane Crash, Mar 1962
95 KILLED AS L.A.-BOUND PLANE CRASHES, BURNS OFF NEW YORK
Huge Airliner Falls in March; Ike Pal Aboard
NEW YORK (AP) - An American Airlines jet liner bound for Los Angeles with 95 persons aboard crashed and burned today in the nation's largest disaster involving a single plane. Police said there were no survivors.
The Boeing 707 Astro-jet turned suddenly and plunged into a marsh off souther Long Island just after taking off from Idlewild Airport for Los Angeles.
The highest previous toll in a single plane was 78 lives lost in the crash of a Trans World Airways Constellation in a cornfield near Chicago's Midway Airport last Sept. 1.
A two-plane collision over New York cost 135 lives in 1960.
Policemen and firemen wading in hip boots or rowing in small boats searched swampy Long Island in a search for survivors of the American airliner but found only bodies and wreckage.
Two hours after the crash they had found 32 bodies.
The airline listed one of the passengers as W. ALTON JOHNES, board chairman of the Cities Service Co., and a golfing and quail shooting companion of former President Eisenhower.
Twenty-four bodies had been recovered shortly before noon.
Ironically, the $5.5 million plane crashed in sparkling clear weather, the first fair day after almost a week of rain and fog that had delayed or canceled hundreds of flights.
Coast Guardsmen said they found no trace of survivors.
The tragedy came just as the city was about to give a joyful welcome to Marine Lt. Col. John H. Glenn, Jr., the astronaut who orbited the earth.
The plane, with 87 passengers aboard, had taken off from Idlewild Airport for Los Angeles at 10:07 a. m. Glenn was due here at nearby LaGuardia Airport at 11:15 a. m.
The aircraft, a modernized Boeing 707 known as an Astro-Jet, crashed in a swampy area known as Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay off Far Rockaway in Queens. The area is just off the southern shore of Long Island.
The plane was half in the water and half on the marsh.
Huge clouds of smoke rose from the wreckage.
Witnesses said the plane climbed to about 700 feet from Idlewild, then turned left and plunged at a steep angle.
Some witnesses said they saw flames coming from the plane before the crash, others did not, but the plane was in flames immediately after the impact.
The lane was known as "Flight No. 1."
By 11 a. m., the report from Coast Guardsmen at the scene was:
"There is now only floating, smoking debris in the water."
Police at Idlewild said at the same time:
"Apparently there were no survivors."
The crash scene was about three miles from the Idlewild control tower.
The crew of a Mohawk Airlines plane that had taken off immediately after the Astro-jet witnessed the crash and radioed an alarm back to the airport.
WILLIAM MARTIN, a member of the Broad Channel volunteer fire department, said:
"There was an awfully loud explosion that actually shook the fire house building a half mile from the scene. Then a few minutes later we could see heavy black smoke - a very thick column of it. It went about 150 feet into the air."
The Broad Channel and other fire companies in the area sent ambulances and fire apparatus.
Coast Guard helicopters and a city fireboat converged on the scene.
Police commissioner MICHAEL J. MURPHY, sent a large detachment of police, including 55 who had been assigned to Manhattan for the ticker tape parade for Glenn.
Also assigned to the crash were 125 detectives who had been attending a session on narcotics at the Police Academy.
The Civil Aeronautics Board office at Idlewild dispatched its agents.
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