Elizabeth, NJ Airliner Crash Kills 56, Dec 1951
56 DIE AS AIRLINER CRASHES, BURNS NEAR JERSEY THRONGS.
PASSENGERS ALL KILLED IN DISASTER.
Further Tragedy Averted as Heroic Pilot Plunges Craft Into River Near City; Building Blazes, Workman Hurt.
Elizabeth, N. J., Dec. 16 -- (INS) -- A non-scheduled Florida-bound airliner crashed in flames in the heart of industrial Elizabeth seven minutes after its takeoff today, killing all 56 persons on board.
Only the heroic and skillful maneuvering of the pilot, identified as a Capt. LYONS of Miami, prevented the death toll from mounting even higher.
With a motor and one wing blazing, he brought the plane down into the one clear spot of an area surrounded by crowded streets, apartment buildings, and a railroad depot. It was the sixth worst air crash in history.
The plane, owned by the Miami Airlines, an unscheduled line, carried 52 passengers, including two infants and two other children, and a crew of four. It was making a regular Sunday run from Newark to Tampa.
Eyewitnesses said one of the C-46's two engines burst into flames minutes after the takeoff. The pilot immediately began to circle, as though to head back to the airport.
The flames spread to one wing, however, and the pilot then headed for the clear area. The plane was blazing and its altitude was only a few hundred feet when it passed over the Elizabeth Railroad Depot.
It cleared the depot, swooped over an empty area adjoining it, and then spanned the Elizabeth River, which is only 20 feet wide and waist-deep at that point.
The nose of the plane rammed into the one-story brick plant of the Elizabeth Water Co., on the opposite bank of the river, and the tail broke off on the other bank. The midsection wreckage was scattered over 150 yards, much of it in the river.
The water plant was set afire by the crash. Hours later, firemen working in the freezing weather recovered the bodies of the heroic pilot and his co-pilot from beneath the rubble of brick and metal.
Plane 'Fell Like Jet'
Elizabeth Police Inspector EDWARD FLAHERTY said:
"The pilot certainly tried to save as many lives as possible in crashing. He circled the plane as long as he could with the wing and right engine on fire, and landed in the only small, open, uninhabited place in the crowded district."
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