Miami, FL Plane Crashes On Street, June 1969


Miami (AP) -- A DC4 cargo plane trying to circle back to Miami International Airport with an engine afire crashed in a busy, building-lined street here Monday, strewing flaming debris and wreckage along a four-block path.
At least 11 people were killed, including the four crew members and seven people on the ground, said Miami police information officer Gaddy Rawls.
Another dozen were hurt and Rawls said reports of people who received minor injuries were coming in steadily.
Two of the victims were teen aged boys, killed when the plane demolished their father's automobile body shop. Two other people in the shop were killed, Rawls said.
He also listed a couple walking along the street among the victims. Another man was killed when he swerved his truck to avoid the plane and smashed into a utility pole.
Witnesses said the Carvan, a four engine plane converted for carrying automobiles and owned by Dominicana Air Line came down atop a three-story building about a half mile northeast of the airport.
The craft then skipped along the tops of several other buildings knocking off their tops. It mowed down telegraph poles and power lines and ignited gasoline spilled from overturned pumps at a service station.
The plane also spewed hundreds of gallons of flaming gas oline from its own tanks before it finally stopped in the middle of busy 36th Street in front of a used car lot.
Fourteen fire trucks sped to the disaster scene and every available police emergency unit in the city began aiding the injured and recovering bodies.
A Roman Catholic priest who arrived at the scene immediately after the first thunderous explosion said last rites to seven victims.
One building demolished was a two-story structure which housed the shop of CHARLES KNAPP. He survived the blast.
"Am I the only one that got out?" he asked a neighbor EDWARD BURMESTER as he staggered from the wreckage. His sons, CLYDE, 17, and CLIFFORD, 15, were listed among the victims.
The twisted wreckage stopped near 36th Street and 33rd Avenue, a scant two blocks south of the teeming Miami Beach Airport Expressway. Thousands of on lookers soon jammed the area. Their automobiles filled the huge parking lot of the Miami Jai Alai Fronton near the crash site.
Police cordoned off the area, covered the bodies in rubber shrouds and established an emergency command post at the scene.
"Wreckage is scattered along a four block area. It looks as if every building for five blocks was damaged. I can't count all of the burned cars in the street and on the lot," a reporter said.
A spokesman for the air line said the pilot radioed immediately after takeoff an engine was afire and he was trying to ditch the craft in the narrow Miami River, when he saw he couldn't make the airport.
A used car lot office was demolished and dozens of cars destroyed.
More than two dozen firemen and rescue workers dug into a 25 foot high pile of rubble and wreckage at the car lot.
Thirty-sixth Street is a main east-west traffic artery running toward the airport. The plane came down headed northwest.
Police said one of the injured persons was hurt when he attempted to swerve his car out of the planes path and smashed into a utility pole.
"Wrecked and burned cars are all over the place," said a reporter. "Every car in the lot was burned out."
The flaming fuselage came to rest at the edge of the street. One engine completely crushed one of the automobiles.
A witness, schoolteacher NORMAI WHITE, said she was conducting a government class on the fourth floor at the Aviation Building near the crash site.
"We saw the plane coming at the fourth floor level. I have 20 students in my class and as they saw the plane they all started yelling, so I ran to the windows."
"When I saw how low the plane was, I thought it was a crop-duster. The black smoke was coming out ... by then it had swerved away from the Aviation Building, and up a couple of blocks and then crashed almost immediately. It looked to us as though it exploded within seconds."
A spokesman for the airlines, said the plane was en route to the Dominican Republic with general cargo aboard. "We know they had an engine on fire and tried to make the river but that's all we know now," he said.
George Hurt of the FAA said the downed plane was Flight 401. He confirmed it was bound for the Dominican Republic.
Dominica Air Lines identified the four crew members as:
CARLOS BRADOS, the co-pilot.
CESR MOLINA, assistant engineer.

The Playground Daily News Ft.Worth Beach Florida 1969-06-24


I was too (there on that day the plane went down on 36th St)

I was in Orange Blossom Hobbies at the time. I don't remember hearing the crash, but the lights went out, so we walked out through the exit on 36 St, and a block or 2 away the whole World was on fire. I was 11 years old. Thanks for posting. JB

I was there.

Next to the medical building which the left wing hit, there was a camera store. I was in the store with my father when we heard a loud engine racing down the street. My father, said go see what that is. I ran out the front door and immediately looked east where the noise was. In amazement I saw this converted DC-4 (Carvair) in the middle of the street. In a heartbeat it passed over me and the left wing hit the medical building. It nosed into the paint and body shop and exploded. I was looking at everything trying to understand what was going on. The traffic lights were swinging like a button on a string. I was 13 years old at the time but this is something I will always remember.


I met Mr. Knapp today, a great respectable person, very humble, he told me about his good times and when everything was beautiful until that tragic day.. His wife passed away some years ago but he still remembers those great times with his family and will never forget about his boys.. God bless him!

I too, knew the knapp

I too, knew the knapp brothers from Troop 301 near the Miami River. I also knew Clydd from Miami High. I was working at Alexander's Car Rental directly across the street from the runway the plane would have used to land. As I was walking through hallway at the agency an agent asked me if he I heard the building shake. I responded that I didn't and preceded out the door to have a look around. I looked around to the east and North from my location and spotted a black plume of very dark smoke. I just didn't want to believe these friends were know gone. I heard that their dad was sparred because he stepped out to buy a pack of cigarettes.

1969 Miami Plane Crash

I was working at Eastern Airlines Finance dept. on 36st & Lejeune Road ( Bld.5-A) I happened to look out the window and saw the DC-4 lifting off runway 9-L. I spotted the right engine trailing black smoke and knew that the aircraft was in deep trouble. I ran to the east side of the building (5th. floor) and watched as the plane tried to turn left and make it back to the airport. It was at an altitude od maybe 200' as it came directly down 36th street. Other people were also watching as I realized that they were not going to make it and would probably smash into our building. I yelled "RUN" to the other folks and we raced away from the windows just as it crashed into the street below us. Talk about scared!!!

Clyde and Cliff

I remember Clyde and Cliff Knapp. I was in school with them for a couple of years and my best friend and I had a little crush on Clyde until he went off to high school. Cliff was in a lot of the same classes as I was at Kinloch Park Junior High; I remember that he had a great sense of humor.

The day they were killed was the first time I experienced losing someone other than grandparents and older people. It was surreal to me that two young people whom I knew died so horribly. I wasn't able to go to their funeral, but I heard about it from a friend who was there. How terrible for their family and friends.

I'm here because I heard a low-flying plane going over my house tonight when I took my dog outside. Immediately I remembered Clyde and Clifford--all these many years after their deaths. I hadn't thought about them for a very long time. Looking back over my own lifetime it's so very sad that those two young men never had a chance to grow up.

I don't know if their parents are still around, but I send prayers their way.




I read your post and I too knew Cliffie and Clyde as we were their next door neighbors on 14th St.. Cliffie was closer to my age (11) and I also knew the oldest brother Charles who lived away. I remember that I was playing little league baseball that day at Grapeland Heights Park when we saw the huge cloud of black smoke coming from over near the Miami River and wondering what it was. After the game and getting home I remember two City of Miami police officer asking my dad about the Knapps and where they were? A short time later we saw Ethel and Charlie getting home looking very upset. My dad then went to ask them what was wrong and the gave them the sad news. That was a very bad day which I've never forgotten and I have always wondered what Cliffie and Clyde would be like today had they lived. They were good kids and I still miss them. For several months their mom and dad gave us many of their belongings because they couldn't bear the sight of them anymore. Charlie and Ethel finally moved away and we never knew how they faired after moving. They were good people and I am glad I saw your post....Thanks

1969 Plane crash in Miami Florida

I was 9 years old and we lived on NW 34th street and 33rd Ave. I was swimming in the back yard pool when we saw the plane fly over us. It was flying very low, in fact I remember looking up and seeing the rivets in the fuselage of the plane. I felt that I could reach up and touch the plane it was so low. My brother's friend and I watched as the plane attempted to turn back towards the airport. As the plane banked to the left we saw the wing clip a light pole in our back yard neighbors yard and in an instant the plane appeared to dissapear. We heard several explosions and felt the intense heat from the fire, we could smell the stench of burning flesh. Within minutes helicopters from the National Guard were landing on our street just a block or two from our house. The scene was horrific. Utter chaos insued everyone was running into the street. When we got to the end of our block we could see the tail of the plane resting up against a 3 story pink building. I am now 51 years old and remember this as if it were only yesterday.

Plane Crash

I was fifteen when the plane crashed. I remember it clearly still after all these years. My cousin was twenty one he was in college. It was near the beginning of summer vacation. He drove by my house at Grapeland and picked me up to go to the Miami Beach. The 836 Expressway was new and we were driving on it for what was one of the first times. As we drove East we were suddenly passed by a low flying aircraft. We saw that it was a Dominicana plane. It was flying just north of the expressway Eastbound too. It passed us up real low. It was flying with an engine was on fire and the other engines were sputtering. We could see the pilot inside the cockpit through the window on the left side of the plane. He was moving about the cockpit frantically trying to see which engines were on fire. It seemed there was an engine on the opposite side that was smoking. The plane kept moving east, the traffic on the expressway had halted to a crawl, drivers were probably thinking the plane could land on the expressway so they were slowing down. After the plane passed us up we exited at the 27th Ave on the northbound ramp. We kept an eye on the plane as best we could between the trees and buildings. We could see the plane made a turn around and was returning to the airport apparently seeking the landing strip nearer to 36 street. We were stuck at the light at NW 14th Street and 27th ave the entire time the plane circled over Miami and managed to stay aloft. While on 27 the Ave facing north we watched as the plane crossed over 27 ave a mile or so in front of us. Th plane seemed to strike the roof of the old Aviation Building. We though it would kill all the people that worked there if the building fell. We watched from that same intersection as the flames eventually burst into the sky. We returned home to listen to the news.
Later I found out that the two brothers that died at the auto body shop were neighbors Clyde and Cliff Knapp. I knew them from Boy Scouts and Grapeland Park. By the way that Knapp family is something special. After many years of litigation they were compensated for the death of their sons. The money they received from the insurance company they used to fund a trust which they dedicated to taking aircraft that are not flight worthy out of service.