Ridgefield, CT Private Plane Crash, Feb 1959
FEDERAL AGENTS PROBING RIDGEFIELD PLANE CRASH.
Ridgefield, Feb. 24 -- The Civil Air board and the Federal Aviation agency are investigating the crash here of a light airplane yesterday in which its four occupants, all of Patterson, N.Y., were killed.
The plane crashed, exploded and burned on Pine mountain shortly before 6 a.m. The charred bodies of the occupants were found still strapped to their seats. It was estimated by police that the four victims burned to death when the 60-gallon gas tank of the Piper Comanche exploded. The plane was owned by the Danbury School of Aeronautics. The airplane had taken off from Danbury airport.
Those killed were EUGENE BRANDON, 32, a commercial pilot and instructor; EMERSON SMITH, 44, a self-employed carpenter and father of four children; his son JOSEPH, 14, and MR. SMITH'S cousin, DAVID SPRAGUE, 15.
The Connecticut Aviation department also joined the investigation.
The plane had started out for New York's La Guardia airport where the group was to meet MR. SMITH'S daughter, MARILYN, 20, in training as an airline stewardess. The fact that it was headed east when it crashed indicated the pilot may have forced back because of the fog, police said.
A. Danbury milkman, GERALD HOYT, of 39 Division street, notified police of the crash. He had seen the plane take off while he was delivering milk on Spruce Mountain road.
"I heard the engine roaring like thunder," he said. "A split second later, I heard a terrific explosion and saw a flash."
After calling police, he and State Policeman CHARLES LUNDBERG drove up Spruce mountain road, but found nothing. Then Policeman LUNDBERG went up in a plane from the airport, piloted by RUSSELL Swanson, of Bethel, and saw smoke on Pine mountain, which is about half way between Spruce mountain in Danbury and the Ridgefield lakes area.
"We could hardly see through the heavy fog, but we did manage to glimpse wisps of smoke and broken trees," the policeman said.
Later, he led a party to the crash scene on foot. A Danbury newspaperman, ROBERT LAUF, who, was in the group, said: "We walked about a mile over several ridges and rough terrain before we got to the gruesome sight. It was just a mess. There was very little left of the plane and of the bodies."
The fire had burned leaves and underbrush and charred trees for about 100 yards around the wreckage.
The party beat out some grass fires before the arrival of Danbury CD rescue squad with Fire Coordinator ALBERT GANTERI. In the first group were AIrport manager CLIFFORD SADDLER, student pilot RANDY SAVERS, and Ridgefield Policeman MARIO FRUILS.
Officials of the School of Aeronautics said MR. BRANDON was considered one of their best pilots, with about 15 years, experience. The plane was purchased last December, and had only about 15 hours of flying time prior to the crash.
They said this was the first wreck in the school's history, which goes back to the 1940's.
The Bridgeport Post Connecticut 1959-02-24