Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Plane Afire; Falls; 30 Die

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. It was printed in the Chicago Tribune, August 5, 1955. For more newspaper articles concerning this flight please see: "AMERICAN AIRLINES FLIGHT 476 AUGUST 4, 1955", 30 Killed In Flaming Airliner", "Pilot Had 4 Children"

Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., Aug. 4 (AP)--An American Airlines Convair, with one of its wings burned off and desperately trying for an emergency landing carried 30 persons to a flaming death on this military reservation today.

There were no survivors. Among the dead were four Chicagoans.

The two engine plane crashed in woods not far from the reservation's housing area where about 5,000 persons live.

Rescue workers, hampered for hours by intense heat from the wreckage and burning underbrush, finally recovered all the bodies. Fewer than a third of the bodies could be readily identified; the rest were charred beyond recognition.

Pilot Struggles to Land

The 27 passengers and three crewmen included eight women, two children and a Catholic priest.

Witnesses said veteran pilot Capt. Hugh Barron of Tulsa, Okla., fought desperately to glide his crippled plane onto the military airstrip for an emergency landing even as one of the wings dropped off in flames.

The plane plummeted in flames a quarter-mile from where the wing burned off.

Eyewitnesses at the housing area told how the stricken plane roar overhead, only a few hundred feet above the ground.

"At first we thought he (the pilot) would make it," said Beverly Streeter, a WAC private from Asbury Park, N. J.

"Then we heard muffled explosions. Parts seemed to be dropping from the plane. We lost sight of it after that."

Near Landing Filed

Over Lebanon, 30 miles away, smoke had been seen pouring from one of the engines.

The heavily wooded area where the plane crashed was only one-half of a mile short of the post landing field. But the terrain was so rugged it took bulldozers two hours to slash a temporary road to the scene.

Between 150 and 200 soldiers joined in fighting the forest fire which spread over a one-third square mile as a result of the crash.

The Convair had taken off from Springfield, Mo., only a short time earlier. It was winging its way from Tulsa, Okla., to La Guardia airport, New York, via Chicago, under clear skies.

Seeks Emergency Landing

Suddenly one of the engines caught fire. Capt. Barron radioed that the No. 2 (right) engine was afire and he was goin to attempt an emergency landing.

An onlooker said the plane barely cleared the reservation administration buildings at a height of about 200 feet. One wing was tipped downward. Seconds later if fell off. And then came the flaming crash.

The priest aboard was the Rev. George L. Krock, 47, a Roman Catholic missionary and member of the Maryknoll order who recently returned from Guatemala where he was assigned in 1950.

With Barron who had been with American since 1942, were First Officer William G. Gates, also of Tulsa, and Stewardess Thelma Ruth Ballard of Salisbury, N.C.

Another American Airlines plane, also a Convair, crashed last March 20 with the loss of 13 lives in coming in for a landing at the Springfield airport, 80 miles southwest of here.

(Capt. Barron was the central figure in a dramatic crash landing at Glenview naval air station last November. His Convair, with 43 persons aboard, including Mrs. William Stratton, wife of Gov. Stratton of Illinois, circled Chicago for 68 minutes while its crew struggled to release the right main landing gear. Then with its fuel supply almost exhausted, the Convair crash landed on the jet runway at Glenview. The airplane rolled on its left landing gear for 4,000 feet before the right wing tip dipped and dragged, and the plane came to a stop. None of the passengers was hurt.)

1 comment:

  1. The captain of that plane was my Great Uncle, Clafton Barron.