New York, NY Jet Crash, Jun 1975
Firemen said early today that 108 bodies had been found in the marshy area at the edge of Kennedy International Airport where the Eastern Airlines Boeing 727 plane, nonstop flight 66 from New Orleans, crashed late Tuesday afternoon. Two other persons died at a hospital.
There was still confusion today on the number of persons aboard the jet. A spokesman for the airline said there were 116 passengers and 7 crew members, a total of 123.
But the hospital where two of the victims died said a total of 16 persons had been admitted and the 14 were still alive. Added to the 108 bodies counted by the firemen at the crash scene, this would make a total of 124 aboard.
It was one of the worst airplane disasters in the history of the United States. In 1960, 134 persons were killed when a United Airlines DC8 and a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation collided in the air over New York City. The nation's worst one-plane crash killed 111 persons when an Alaska Airlines 727 crashed near Juneau in 1971.
The survivors of Tuesday's crash included two small girls. Most of the survivors were badly burned.
The victims included an Episcopal bishop, a professional basketball player and a group of Norwegian merchant seamen.
Mayor ABRAHAM D. BEARNE, who went to the crash scene by helicopter, said, "I'm numb. It's a terrible tragedy."
The National Transportation Safety Board's area supervisor, GEORGE VAN EPPS, said Tuesday night that there was no record of any emergency radio message from the pilot, Capt. JOHN KLEVEN, of Queens.
VAN EPPS said flight and voice recorders had been recovered and were being sent to Washington for study. Asked about eyewitness reports that lightning had hit the plane, he said that was "something that will be considered in the investigation."
A Federal Aviation Administration investigator at the scene who asked that his name not be used said "Weather was definitely a factor."
However, ISABEL BURGESS, a member of the NTSB investigating board, said she doubted that lightning had anything to do with the crash. She said she had only heard of two previous crashes directly attributed to lightning.
A Nassau county policeman, PAUL MORAN, said he was driving home when he saw a lightning bolt hit the plane.
It was raining heavily and thunderbolts were crashing over the airport area as flight 66 made its landing approach at 4:08 p. m., 23 minutes behind schedule.
According to initial reports, the pilot of the jetliner had been warned about a wind-shear factor at 500 feet on the landing approach. A wind sheer is a phenomenon in which the wind makes 360-degree changes in direction.
Also among the passengers were New York Nets basketball player WENDELL LADNER, ant the Rt. Rev. IVESON B. NOLAND, Episcopal bishop of Louisiana, who was coming to New York for a bishops' conference.
Survivors included two flight attendants, MARY EILEEN MOONEY, 28, from Tulsa, Okla., and ROBERT HOEFLER, 29, of the Bronx. They were reported in fair condition.
Immediately after the crash, cars were backed up several miles along the length of the Belt Parkway that rims Queens and Brooklyn.
Many of the police units summoned to the scene were lost in the traffic jam, and other units had to be rushed in by helicopter.
One person was arrested for alleged looting of the equipment belonging to rescue workers.
The Times Record Troy New York 1975-06-25
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