Walesville, NY Jet Fighter Crashes Into Homes, July 1954
FOUR DIE NEAR UTICA AS AIR FORCE JET FIGHTER HITS AUTO, 2 HOUSES.
Utica (AP) -- A jet fighter plane returning from a quick "scramble" to investigate an unidentified plane crashed in flames in a crossroads hamlet yesterday and killed four persons on the ground. Two houses and an automobile were destroyed. The two Air Force lieutenants in the F94-C Starfire, which carried 48 high-powered 2 1/2 inch rockets, bailed out before it plunged into tiny Walesville, 11 miles southwest of Utica, about 12:30 p.m. (EDT). The two who escaped injury, were LT. WILLIAM E. ATKINS, 24, of Dutton, Va., the pilot, and LT. HENRY F. COUDON, 26, of Perryville, Md., radar observer.
Killed were STANLEY PHILLIPS, 38; his wife, FLORENCE, 32, and their son, GARY, 11, all of neighboring Hecla, and MRS. DORIS MONROE, 28, occupant of one of the houses that was destroyed. The PHILLIPS family was in the automobile. MRS. MONROE was in her home preparing lunch for her four children when the plane crashed.
The plane was attached to the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at nearby Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome. It was one of two jets ordered to check on an unknown plane that had entered the area guarded by the air defense operation.
A Friffiss spokesman said the pilots were satisfied that the plane was "friendly" and were headed back to the base when fire broke out in the cockpit of the ill-fated craft.
The air base said the pilot and radar observer stuck to the plane until the "last minute." A spokesman quoted ATKINS as reporting that he ordered COUDON to bail out, then jumped himself from about 7,000 feet.
Griffiss said that fuel in the burning plane apparently exploded when the jet crashed. A spokesman said it had not been determined whether an explosion occurred while the jet was in the air.
Earlier, an Air Force officer had said there "must have been an explosion."
The unoccupied plane struck a large elm tree back of the Walesville general store. A section of the burning craft, probably a wing, struck the car carrying the PHILLIPS family home, presumably from the Rome State School, where both husband and wife were employed as occupational instructors.
The sedan burst into flames, ploughed into the home of MRS. MARY PECK, 79, and set the colonial frame structure afire. MRS. PECK fled to safety.
Meanwhile, the body of the plane plunged through the roof of the one-story MONROE home and fire quickly destroyed it.
MRS. MONROE was preparing lunch while her children played outside. Her husband, LLOYD, was at work in a foundry.
One of the children, BETTY LOU, one year old, suffered a severe laceration of the leg, presumably when struck by debris from the shattered plane, parts of which were scattered all over the community.
The three other MONROE children escaped without a scratch. They were KENNETH, 9, BUDDY, 6, and NORA MAY, 3.
The air base public information office said that a board of inquiry had begun an investigation.
The plane's engine was found 200 feet south of the four corners. Heat from the flames was so intense it melted the macadam road.
ORSON BUCK, whose daughter operates the general store, said he saw the plane strick and BETTY LOU MONROE fall. He pulled the child away from the house and took her to the store. She later was taken to a Utica hospital.
ALVIA SANCHER of Walesville said he was inside his home when he heard a noise that "sounded like a rocket or a siren."
"I ran to the window and heard the crash. Then I saw the plane or part of it, as it hit the house across the street. Something smashed through a window near the porch of the house."
He said he saw an object that seemed to be an unexploded missle.
Later, an armament team from the air base roped off the general area and searched for rockets. It was reported that some were found.
KENNETH MONROE told investigators that he and his sisters and brother were playing in the yard when "all of a sudden there was smoke and fire and I heard my mother screaming."
He said he took his sisters by the hand and half dragged them to the front of the general store. He said his brother ran along with them.
The pilot and the radar observer were found a relatively short distance apart and a few miles from the crash scene. They were taken to the air base hospital, where examination disclosed they had escaped injury.
The Troy Record New York 1954-07-03