Date: June 17th, 1948
Operator: United Air Lines
Where: Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, USA
Report No.: Not Available
Report Date: -
This is not an accident investigation report.
Writeup from the New York Times, Friday June 18th, 1948
edition as it was written.
CRASH OF DC-6 KILLS ALL 43 ON BOARD IN PENNSYLVANIA EMERGENCY LANDING;
CRAFT HITS A 60,000 VOLT POWER LINE
WING WAS BURNING
EARL CARROLL AMONG DEAD ON UNITED LINER
DUE FROM SAN DIEGO
FLAMES BALK APPROACH
DISASTER IS FIRST SERIOUS ACCIDENT SINCE
PLANES WERE GROUNDED FOUR MONTHS
Mount Carmel, Pa., June 17- A United Air Lines DC-6 passenger plane
crashed and burned on a sparsely wooded hillside three miles northeast
of here at 1:41 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time today killing all of it's
thirty-nine passengers and crew of four.
Capt. George Warner Jr., Pilot of the four motored plane, which left
San Diego, Calif., last evening bound for La Guardia Field, New York,
radioed just before the crash "NY. NY., this is an emergency descent."
Horrified eyewitnesses said that somke was coming from the planes left
wing as Captain Warner brought it down in a vain attempt to land on a
near-by large flat area on which refuse from a coal breaker is dumped.
As Captain Warner banked the plane, one wing struck the transformer on
a high tension electric power line, which carries 60,000 volts to the
near-by colliery. The plane "completely disentegrated" in the air,
MASS OF FLAMES, WITNESS SAYS
George Minnich, an employee of Midvalley Colliery No. 2, which the
plane missed by only 100 yards in it's descent, said that he saw the
"Suddenly there was a horrible crash," he said. "All you could see was
a mass of flames. It sounded as though the end of the world was coming."
Mr. Minnich said that two of the engines of the plane dropped from it
near the base of the tower supporting the power line and a transformer,
and the rest of the plane cut through the trees of the mountainside for
400 or 500 feet before coming to a halt.
Would-be rescuers were balked from approaching the wreckage by flames
that spread quickly through the surrounding brush, and burned over an
area about an acre. Apparently, however, everyone aboard was killed by
the crash and rescue work could not have saved any lives.
Among the passengers on the plane were Earl Carroll, Hollywood night
club impressario and former Broadway producer Beryl Wallace, star of his
current night club show; Mrs. Venita Varden Oakis, former Follies girl
and divorced wife of Jack Oakie, movie comedian, and two babies.
The plane left San Diego at 9:05 o'clock Pacific Coast Standard Time
last night. It stopped at Los Angeles at 10:50 P.M. and at Chicago this
morning. It took off from Chicago at 8 A.M. Central Standard Time, bound
for La Guardia Field where it was due at 1 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.
3rd FATAL CRASH THIS YEAR
The crash was the third fatal one on a domestic air line since Jan. 1
and the only one in which a large number of lives were lost. It brought
the total number of deaths in air-line crasher in this country in 1948
to fifty-two, as against 152 on the same date in 1947.
Today's accident was the first serious mishap involving a DC-6 plane
since they were grounded for four months last winter. Fifty-two persons
were killed in a crash in one in Bryce Canyon, Utah on Oct. 24th. On
Nov.1 another DC-6 made an emergency landing with twenty-five passengers
aboard at Gallup, N.M.. They were grounded the next day and restored to
service in March, after modifications had been made to lessen the fire
Only eight minutes before the crash captain Warner made a routine
report to the Civil Aeronautics Administration control point at
Phillipsburg , Pa.. At that time, 1:33 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, he
said that he was flying at 17,000 feet. He made no mention of trouble.
The CAA acknowleged his report and gave him clearance to pass over the
next CAA control point at Allentown, Pa., approximately fifty miles to
the east, at an altitude of 11,000 feet. Avaition experts said that this
was merely a routine descent in preparation for a landing at La Guardia.
Captain Earl Bach of United Filght 132, bound for Philadelphia, was
following the big DC-6 but at a much lower altitude. He was flying at
9,000feet in a twin engined DC-3 when he heard Captain Warner's voice
over the radio phone announcing that the big plane was making an
emergency descent. "I could tell from the pilot's voice that they were
in bad trouble," Captain Bach said later.
DID NOT TELL PASSENGERS
Captain Bach circled over the area and spotted the burning plane twelve
minutes later. He said that he did not tell the fifteen passengers and
the stewardess on his plane what had happened to avoid alarming them. He
said that he believed that if they saw anything, they thought it was
merely a forest fire.
"I could hardly see the plane because of the smoke and flames from the
wreck itself and the trees burning several hundred feet all around" he
"All I could see was that it was a plane demolished on the side of a
hill beside a large Colliery. It appeared to be in a clump of trees near
a clearing. The smoke was rising about 200 feet in the air."
Captain Bach reported that despite the brief time that had elapsed
their was already a crowd around the burning area, and that he could see
automobiles carrying additional spectators to the scene. He said he
circled the area while advising New York by radio of what had happened,
and then continued his own flight.
Ninety men were at work in Midvalley Colliery No. 2, which the plane
missed by a bare 100 yards, when the accident occured. They rushed to
the scene, but found they were barred from approaching the wreckage by
the flames, which spread with lightening rapidity through the gasoline
Charred and burning pieces of wreckage and burned and mutilated bodies
were scattered over on acre or more. An alarm was sent for fire
apparatus and engines responded from Mount Carmel and Ashland.
The Mount Carmel Fire Department was handicapped by the fact that all
but one of it's pieces of apparatus were attending a fire convention and
parade in Sunbury, thirty miles from here. The alarm was relayed there
and a number of the fire companies taking part left hastily for the
scene of the crash.
When the State Police arrived, they roped off the area to protect
the wreckage for investigations by Civil Aeronautics Board officials and
representatives of United Air Lines.
State Policemen under the command of Maj. Charles J. McRae, Red
Cross workers and members of the Civil Air Patrol completed tonight the
work of removing all remaining bodies, including those of two children,
to the Stutz Funeral Parlor in Centralia.
Coroner John Evans said he believed that because of their charred
and mutilated condition it was doubtful if any exact identification
could be made. Those who viewed the bodies expressed the theory that
most of the passengers had been killed by the impact of the plane as it
crashed rather than by the fire.
The time of the wreckage was fixed with exactness by the stopping
of an electric clock in the Midvalley Colliery at 1:41 P.M.. The clock
was stopped when the electric power lines serving the colliery, which is
owned by the Jeddo- Highland Company, were severed by the plane.
After the flames had been put out, the reverend P.J. Phelan of
near-by Centralia walked through the charred debris , offering the last
rites of the church over the bodies he found.
At the time of the crash the sun was shining through partly cloudy
skies. The ceiling was 5,500 feet and the visibility was eight miles,
the CAA reported.
Flight 624, the one that crashed, was a new one. It was started by
United Air Lines last Friday.
W.A. Patterson, president of United Air Lines, said late tonight
that any statement as to the probable cause of the accident "would be
premature and might prove misleading." He added that company officials
at the scene, headed by J.A. Hearlihy, vice president of operations, had
reported that "nothing conclusive has yet been determined." Mr.
Patterson indicated that some statement might be forthcoming tomorrow.
----------------CONCLUSION OF THE MAIN ARTICLE-------------------
There are other articles relating to this crash that indicated that
many "people of wealth and importance" were aboard the aircraft. Many
entertainers, lawyers, engineers, and Henry L. Jackson, a founder of
Esquire Magazine were unfortunate victims.
Also, another article stated that the pilot's wife, who often
listened to her husband's flights in progress on a "shortwave radio set"
was tuned in at the time and heard Captain Warner's last words. This
information was relayed by Mrs. Warner's sister in New Orleans,
Thanks to Tim Hufnell for his research in compiling this report.