Alvarado, CA Airliner Plunges Into Field, Mar 1953

Alvarado CALIF Flight 942 crash 3-20-1953.jpg



Investigators failed today to turn up a single clue to the cause of the disastrous crash last night of a Transocean Air Lines DC-4 in a muddy Alvarado barley field.
Thirty Air Force men and the crew of five, including two stewardesses, died as the plane dropped out of the overcast and burned in the level field.
An exhaustive investigation was being organized this afternoon, but cursory examination of the scene today produced nothing that would shed light on the accident, according to SAMUEL WILSON, executive vice-president of Transocean.
The pilot of the plane was Transocean's chief pilot and WILSON said he would "almost rule out the possibility of pilot error."
"He was not only our chief pilot but our best pilot," WILSON said.
The tragic crash came when the plane was less than 12 miles from a landing at Oakland Municipal Airport and only two minutes after the pilot had made normal radio contact with the Civil Aeronautics Administration control tower without reporting trouble.
The four-engine airliner, arriving from Walker Air Force Base at Roswell, N. M., en route to Guam, was on the "beam" for its instrument approach to Oakland Airport when, according to eye witnesses, it went into a steep left bank, dropped to earth and cartwheeled, then burst into flames.
The FBI said in San Francisco that it was "maintaining contact" with investigators on the scene for any evidence of sabotage, but that as yet there was no hint of sabotage.
The 30 dead airmen were maintenance specialists of the 509th Bomb Wing assigned to Guam after completing training at the Roswell Field.
The crash scene is about four miles from where a United Air Lines DC-6B crashed on August 24, 1951, killing 50 persons in the state's worst air disaster.
Investigation of the cause was being made today by EARLE MITCHELL, chief of the Oakland office of the Civil Aeronautics Board, assisted by experts from Southern California, and officials of Oakland-based company.
The plane hit a fourth of a mile northeast of the intersection of Alguire Road and Whipple Road on the ranch operated by FRANK and RICK ANDRADA.
Plane On Lease.
Transocean Air Lines said the Douglas-built DC-4 was leased from the Air Force and operated by Transocean under contract to the Military Air Transport Service.
It left Roswell about 11:15 a.m. yesterday and began flying in instrument weather at Winslow, Ariz.
Transocean said the plane was making an instrument approach to the airport after being held over the field for anhour due to weather and traffic conditions.
Tower control of the plane was transferred from the Air Route Traffic Control Center at 6:19 p.m. The plane then was at 8000 feet in the vicinity of the Newark radio beacon. At 6:27, the pilot was given permission to descent to 3500 feet, the "holding" altitude over Newark.
At 6:36 the pilot reported he was leaving Newark on his approach.
Then -- Disaster.
Two minutes later the plane suddenly dropped into the muddy field.
Apparently it hit first on the left wing, then the nose and dropped back upright. Then there was a great ball of fire and the plane burned.
Bodies, many with their clothes burned off, torn, twisted pieces of debris and personal belongings from the baggage were scattered over 350 yards.
Borth wings were torn off. One of the four engines was thrown 100 feet, one section of the dual wheel landing gear over 80 feet.
Flames Balk Rescue.
ROBERT LEMOS, of 26 Creek Road, said he was driving on Whipple Road when he saw the plane, landing gear down, in a steep left bank. He watched in horror as it smashed into the plowed field and exploded almost immediately. He ran to the plane but was unable to help, if any were still alive, because of the intense heat of the fire.
MRS. EDITH WHIPPLE was on her porch a half mile northeast of the crash, she said, when she heard the plane "much too low."
Ice Chunks Found.

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