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Mt Carmel, PA Airplane Crash, Jun 1948

Air Crash That Killed 43 Probed


MT. CARMEL, Pa. (AP) - Charred pieces scattered over a coal-blackened hillside were the only visible remains today of a huge airliner that carried 43 persons to fiery death.
Investigators probed through the wreckage of the United Airlines DC-6 that plunged earthward yesterday afternoon in an attempted emergency landing. One of its motors had caught fire.
In New York City, the airline said it still had not the slightest inkling as to the cause of the crash.

Victims included Hollywood-Broadway theatrical producer EARL CARROLL; MRS. JACK OAKIE, divorced wife of the motion picture actor; Actress BERYL WALLACE, star of Carroll's theater restaurant show; HENRY L. JACKSON, men's fashion editor of Collier's Magazine, and REMO BUFANO, nationally famous marionette producer.
Witnesses said the pilot of the giant craft, manned by a crew of four for its 12-hour flight from San Diego, Calif., to New York City, apparently tried to pancake safely on a black hill of coal dust near this Eastern Pennsylvania anthracite town.
The craft limped at half-speed into a valley dotted with collieries. Capt. GEORGE WARNER, JR., of Westmont, Ill., guided his ship four miles between two hills. He was scarcely 30 feet above ground.

Stunned miners saw the nose of the plane veer upward, too late. It shattered against a 60,000-volt power line and exploded. Bodies, baggage and plane parts were strewn about.
"The whole scene was like a living hell," said eyewitness HARRY STIBITZ. "Flames and smoke flew about 90 feet in the air."
The tragedy was the fourth worst plane crash in domestic airline history. The three others were last year - 53 persons were killed at Port Deposit, Md.; 52 at Bryce Canyon, Utah, and 50 in Virginia's Blue Ridge mountains.
Two infants were among the 39 passengers and four crew members killed yesterday.

The accident scene was roped off and coal miners from a colliery that barely missed being hit by the plummeting plane helped searchers comb the area for body fragments.
An area the size of three city blocks was charred by the fire that flashed from the wreckage seconds after the plane struck the hill.
"That was just about the worst thing I ever saw," said GEORGE BOLICH, 47, of Wilburton, Pa., who was operating a mine locomotive when the plane winged in -“ and fell.
"I sure was afraid when it flew over my head," BOLISH recounted. "After it hit, it was quiet except for the licking of flames."

FRED WOMER, Kulpmont, Pa., auto mechanic, said a few minutes before the crash he saw a "left motor smoking. It was obviously in distress."

"It is as bad a mess as I ever have seen," said JOSEPH O. FLUETT, chief of region 1 of the Civil Aeronautics Board. He arrived from New York City a few hours after the disaster to direct the CAB's investigation.
He was joined by experts from the United Airlines, Douglas Aircraft Co., manufacturers of the big plane, and the Airline Pilots Association.
They searched through the wreckage until midnight last night and returned to the task this morning.

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June 1948 Plane crash

I was 12 years old at the time. The Mannion boys and I were playing baseball in Beaverdale. A large plane flew over us at about 200 feet above the ground. We could actually see people at the windows. We knew that this plane was in trouble. No Plane ever flew that low over the Mt. Carmel area. This was especially true of a large multi-engine aircraft. About 20 minutes later, Mr. Joe Mannion (the Father) came out the door and announced that a plane had crashed. He asked if we wanted to go up to the mountain and see the wreck. We piled into his car and were there in about 10 - 15 minutes. We saw nothing larger than pieces of the fuselage torn into shreds. There were some body parts evident. Paper, wood, metal strewn all about. I went home then for supper and told my mom and dad. I will never forget it. Jim Hodrick

article | by Dr. Radut