Great Falls, MT Planes Collide At State Fair, Aug 1946



Great Falls, Mont. -- Police said today at least eight persons were killed and ten hurt when two Army bombers collided over the State Fair grounds yesterday and one of them crashed in flames into a crowded stable.
Sheriff's deputies and volunteer workers searched the smoking ruins of the stable for additional victims.
Officials of the annual North Montana State Fair said twenty valuable thoroughbreds perished in the blaze.
Two low-flying A-26 attack bombers collided before 50,000 horrified State Fair spectators during an exhibition by Army pilots from Great Falls Army Air Base.
One of the crippled planes plummeted directly into the crowded stable, exploding inside the structure. The other plane ploughed into the earth more than five miles away.
The flames were so intense, would-be rescuers stood helplessly, while the stable became a blazing oven filled with shrieking human and animal victims.
Police Chief HAROLD MADY of Great Falls said it was still impossible to determine the exact number of dead. MADY said the bodies of four fliers had been recovered from the two planes and the remains, in whole or part, of four civilians had been taken from the ashes of the building.
MADY said the only positively identified civilian victims were MISS DOROTHY SZABO, nineteen, of Belt, Mont., ANDY SEAMAN, horse trainer, Rexburg, Idaho. Another victim was tentatively identified as KENNETH PULVER, nineteen, Helena, Mont., jockey.
"It's a ghastly sight," MADY said, "most of the bodies are being found in burning pieces and we're having a hard time to find out who they were."
MADY said there was no way of knowing the exact number of persons in the barn at the time of the crash, but estimates ranged from ten to twenty-four.
Air base authorities confirmed the number of fliers killed, but said their identities would not be revealed until their families were notified.
Lieut. ARTHUR PELLETIER, Collergine, Minn., pilot.
Capt. HOWARD G. McELROY, Lake Charles, La., pilot.
Lt. GEORGE OSGOOD, ROtterdam Junction, N.Y.
Lt. GEORGE B. COLWELL, JR., pilot, Lulity, Tx.
The stable was only 750 feet from the grandstand where a crowd of 50,000 gathered to watch the air exhibition and the racing program to follow.
Witnesses said the planes were flying in tight formation within 200 feet of the ground when one of them suddenly zoomed upward slashing the tail assembly of the other. The tail-less plane screamed earthward, exploding as it battered through the side of the stable.
The second plane wobbled crazily across the sky and fell out of sight leaving a trail of smoke. The wreckage, containing the bodies of two crewmen, was found by a searching party half an hour later.
Injured and hospitalized:
EDWARD P. MURPHY, 6, Stanford.
HERBERT TAYLOR, 45, Payette, Id.

Middletown Times Herald New York 1946-08-10


Witnessed the accident

I was in the stands with my parents not quite 6 years old. I remember the planes coming in from the South. the next thing I heard the exposion, people panicking and yelling. I saw the tail section down on the race track in front of me like it had been sawed and just laying there. I remember this much vividly in my mind. It all happened very quickly except for the huge fireball and burning horse barns