Moses Lake, WA Airplane Crash, Dec 1952
91 Killed as Huge Transport Crashes
Worst Mishap in Aviation History Survived by Few; Snow Marks Crash's Scene.
MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) - A big transport plane crammed with holiday-bound service men crashed and burned near here Saturday morning, killing 91 of an estimated 118 aboard. [Air Safety Report lists 87 killed of 115 aboard.]
Hours after the C-124 Globemaster smashed into the ground on a takeoff from Larson Air Force base, officials announced the death figure after earlier reports that varied from 86 to 102.
MOSES LAKE, Wash. (AP) - A giant Globemaster "Christmas Special" flying service men home for the holidays crashed with 118 men aboard early Saturday, and the Air Force announced there were 91 known dead - the worst accident in aviation history.
Maj. P. W. WASSUM, Air Force Public information officer, announced the toll four hours after the four-engine C-124 crashed and burned moments after taking off at 6:30 a. m. (PST) from Larson Air Force base. It had just begun to snow lightly.
WASSUM said some of the 27 survivors escaped unhurt.
Gasoline from ruptured wing tanks spilled as the big plane hit and flames trapped some in the wreckage. The C-124 is the biggest U. S. military plane in service.
The announced deaths number 11 more than in the worst previous single aviation disaster. That was March 12, 1950, in Cardiff, Wales, with 80 soccer fans returning home from a game in Ireland were killed.
Headed for Texas
The Globemaster had taken off for the Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Tex.
There was confusion over the exact number aboard. The Air Force first said 132, then 134, then 130. An officer said the number might be changed slightly after a recheck.
WASSUM said a light snow had barely started - not enough to be a hazard - when the plane took off. But soon after the crash wet snow began falling heavily, delaying recovery of bodies at the crash scene. Rescue vehicles bogged in the soft, wet ground.
The first detail on the actual crash came from Sgt. ARTHUR BAKER of the Washington State Patrol. BAKER said the plane "apparently was making a left turn when its wing tip hit the ground."
He said the tail section jutted above the scattered, seared wreckage.
"It's awful, that's all," the patrol sergeant said.
In Washington, D. C. the Air Force announced its director of flight safety, Brig. Gen. RICHARD O'KEEFE, would come here immediately to head an investigation.
There was no immediate breakdown on the crew and passengers, but a C-124 normally has a crew of about a dozen.
Major WASSUM said most of the passengers were military men hitchhiking a ride home for Christmas.
The skies were heavily overcast, and the snow continued to filter down as the dying flames flickered eerily in the winter gloom.
There was no way to determine immediately what caused the plane to go down about two miles off the base runway. Officials said, however, weather conditions were not a major factor.
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin Washington 1952-12-20