Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The following is a newspaper article reporting on the doomed American Airlines Flight 476 which crashed August 4th, 1955 just shy of the runway at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. There were no survivors.

FT. LEONARD WOOD, Mo., Aug. 4 (AP) “ An American Airlines two-engine plane desperately trying for an emergency landing with one engine afire, crashed in flames on this military reservation today, carrying 30 persons to their death.
The blazing ship smashed off a wing on a wooded hilltop and crashed its fuselage into a deep, brush-tangled ravine, starting a forest fire that still was burning four hours later.
Capt. R. D. SINEX, camp public information officer, said 18 bodies had been recovered. Capt. H. B. BRACEY, an investigations officer, said he had counted 21 bodies and others apparently were hidden in the charred debris.
The spot where the plane crashed was just three-fourths of a mile short of the post landing field, it was trying to reach. But the terrain was so rugged, bulldozers did not succeed in slashing a temporary road to the spot until two hours later.
Capt. BRACEY fixed the time of the crash at 12:30 p. m. CST. The bulldozers finished cutting an access road shortly before 4 p. m.
Between 150 and 200 soldiers were still fighting the forest fire late today.
Some of the bodies were thrown some distance from the wrecked plane and escaped the flames. Maj. WARREN PAULEY, aviation officer at the fort, reported.
Ft. Leonard Wood is 130 miles southwest of St. Louis, on the edge of the foothills of the Ozark Mountains.
The big Convair had taken off from Springfield, Mo., only a short time earlier. It was winging its way from Tulsa, Okla., to Syracuse, N. Y., under clear, blue skies.
Suddenly one of the engines caught fire. Veteran pilot Capt. HUGH BARRON of Tulsa radioed that the plane was afire and he was going to attempt an emergency landing.
PAULEY said the plane barely cleared the reservation administration buildings at a height of about 200 feet. One wing was tipped downward. Seconds later it was torn off. And then the flaming crash.
The stricken plane, streaming a plume of flame from one engine, was seen by residents of a housing area five miles from the crash scene as it flew low above their homes in its desperate bid for a safe landing. These witnesses variously estimated the plane's height at 200 to 500 feet.
American Airlines at St. Louis reported there were 27 passengers aboard, including two children, in addition to the three crewmen. Twenty-one of the passengers had boarded the plane at nearby Springfield.
"The pilot was lined up for the runway", PAULEY reported," and he crashed about one-half mile short of the runway, roughly three quarters of a mile from the housing area of the post."
A wing was ripped from the fuselage as it thundered into the trees. Fire spread over one-third of a square mile of brush and trees.
The Army rushed crash crews and firefighters to the scene but they were turned back by the searing flames. A bulldozer was moved in to root out a road to the burning wreckage so fire equipment could be brought up.
The plane crashed at 12:23 p. m. CST. It was due at St. Louis at 12:35 p. m. CST but it already had indicated to the airfield there that it was coming in late. Estimated arrival time at the St. Louis field had been posted as 12:53 p. m. CST.
With BARRON, who had been with American since 1942, were First Officer WILLILAM G. GATES, also of Tulsa, and the stewardess, THELMA RUTH BALLARD of Salisbury, N. C. The Missouri state highway patrol office at nearby Rolla, just before the crash, received a radio call to watch for a commercial airliner in trouble.
Minutes later the highway patrol heard a military police patrol calling its headquarters:"The plane crashed and is now burning."
Witnesses said BARRON obviously was attempting to stretch his glide with the burning plane to reach the military landing strip. But he found it impossible as the faltering plane plunged into the trees, setting fire to them and the brush around.
The plane, with a 40-passenger capacity, had made stops at Joplin and Springfield in Missouri. It also had scheduled stops at Chicago, Cleveland and Buffalo, N. Y., in addition to St. Louis.
Military police threw up a cordon around the crash scene, enforcing maximum security. Spectators were ordered out of the area.

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