Miles City, MT Plane Overshoots Runway And Crashes, May 1942



Miles City, May 12. -- (AP) -- A quick-thinking army sergeant saved his own and 10 other lives Tuesday in the crash of a Northwest Airlines transport which fatally injured three airplane pilots.
Overshooting the airport, the plane smashed into a ravine half a mile beyond the airfield and burst into flames.
As soon as it came to rest, Sergeant CARL DINIUS of Miles City battered through a window while Lieutenant ALFRED ALBERT ALLEN of Cottage Grove, Ore. .. and two civilian passengers pushed at the plane's jammed door.
From the outside Sergeant DINIUS was able to open the door. Lieutenant ALLEN pushed through and with Stewardess LOIS HALLAN of Aitkin, Minn., helped all the passengers out.
Captain EUGENE S. SHANK, 37, of Minneapolis, pilotof the Minneapolis-to-Seattle plane, died of a skull fracture. First Officer DONALD HAROLD NYGREN, 21, of St. Paul, Minn., was trapped and burned to death in the pilot's cabin.
Captain K. R. MARTIN of Seattle, a third Northwest Airlines pilot aboard the craft, died of burns at a Miles City hospital five hours after the crash.
Lieutenant ALLEN, an antiaircraft officer en route home from his South Carolina camp, tried to get into the plane's nose to reach NYGREN. The flames drove him back.
One passenger said no one know the plane was burning until they scrambled out of the cabin. The window curtains had been drawn three minutes from the airport in compliance with wartime regulations.
Sergeant DINIUS and Lieutenant ALLEN, the first to get out, kept quiet about the fire to prevent possible panic.
CHARLES ROSCERANS of St. Paul, a passenger, suffered a back injury. Lieutenant ALLEN'S hands were cut. All others aboard were only bruised and shaken up.
DINIUS, on furlough from a Savannah, Ga., camp, was coming home to visit his parents, MR. and MRS. S. A. DINIUS.
A passenger list issued by Northwest Airlines also included the names of JACK THOMPSON, Milwaukee; P. GOGGIN, E. HAHN, T. GALL, and MRS. R. B. BROWN, home address not given, and ROSECRANS and L. L. SUMNER, both of St. Paul.
The accident, fourth for commercial air lines in Montana since Jan. 10, 1938, increased the total number of deaths of such fatalities to 17. It occurred at 11:50 a. m.
"The pilot made three attempts to land," Sergeant DINIUS said. "The last time I thought the wheels had struck the ground, but he rolled quite a distance. Then he gunned the motor, then he crashed."
JACK THOMPSON said he believed the ship had landed, albeit roughly, at the airport proper.
"It bumped up and down a couple of time and then came down hard beyond the north side of the field," THOMPSON recounted. "I first realized something was wrong when the lieutenant (preceded by Sergeant DINIUS) broke out the window."
THOMPSON suffered a slight bruise. He was among those able to crawl through the opened door.
LLOYD DURANTI, 27, a Miles City mortician's employe, said he reached the crash scene about 10 minutes after the accident.
"One of those big motors was wrenched loose and hurled about 20 feet beyond," DURANTI said. "The plane was burning when we got there and the body of Captain SHANK lay on the ground."
The plane lay crushed, somewhat on its right side.
"The passengers and everybody there seemed in pretty good shape," DURANTI added. "They huddled in a group about 20 or 30 feet from the wreckage. There was no hysteria."
When DURANTI'S ambulance removed Captain SHANK'S body and the injured, he did not know the body of NYGREN still was in the debris. NYGREN'S body was discovered about two hours afterward, when the flames had cooled somewhat.

Billings Gazette Montana 1942-05-13