Rogers Park, AK Aircraft Crashes On Takeoff, Sep 1951



Anchorage, Sept. 5 -- (AP) -- Alaska's air tragedies climbed to 10 in the space of six weeks when a twin-engined Cessna smashed down in suburban Rogers Park yesterday just after taking off for Seward, killing five people.
Pilot NORM MAITHER fought valiantly to keep the wounded plane from striking houses, bringing it down in flames in the back yard of an occupied home.
Horribly burned, he was pulled from the wreckage alive but died en route to a hospital. Also killed were the four passengers of the Christianson Air Service craft, identified as O. M. BEAVER of Anchorage; LAURENCE ARNDT, Palmer, Alaska, and a military captain and his wife.
Military authorities withheld the identity of the latter two until next of kin could be notified.
Eighty-nine people have been killed or lost in the series of accidents since a Korea air-lift plane disappeared July 21 with 38 aboard.
Had this not been the first day of school here, the death toll might have been much higher, as a large number of children usually are playing in the area. As it was, the plane narrowly missed two houses and crashed in the back yard of a third.
MAITHER and two passengers still were living when rescuers reached the scene but flames prevented their rescue.
The plane was the first section of an afternoon flight to Seward. Jim Chadwick, an air line employe, said one engine appeared to catch fire just after the takeoff. The craft angled down between two houses, one occupied by a mother and baby, the other by two men.
George Brandon, 17, looked up from the window of a third house and said he "thought the plane was coming right into our living room."
Witnesses said it appeared that MAITHER fought the plane all the way to the ground to keep it from striking the houses.
He was a veteran pilot, formerly with the Civil Aeronautics administration and for a time manager of the Anchorage airport. He leaves his wodow and a daughter here and a son, Brian Maither, who is en route to school at Napa Junior college in California.
Albert McGee and his son, Donald, were among those who witnessed the crash. They were building a house about 30 feet from where the plane hit the earth.
"I was sitting on a sawhorse, putting a catch on a cabinet door," Albert McGee said. "The explosion knocked me off the horse. I thought it was an atomic bomb when I saw the flames."
Donald, working on a floor in the house, said he, too, thought it was a bomb.
"I looked out and saw the burning engine and saw the plane bounce like a big rubber ball," he said. "The first thing I thought of was my wife and baby in a temporary house directly behind where the plane crashed."
"I went over there and saw they were all right, then went to the plane but it was impossible to help. There was too much fire and heat. A highway patrolman arrived just then and tried using hand extinguishers but they were of little avail."

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Alaska 1951-09-05