Willow Grove, PA Jet Plane Crashes Into Store, Aug 1961
JET PLANE SMASHES INTO BARGAIN CITY USA STORE.
PILOT DIES, 30 TO 35 ARE HURT.
TRIES TO LAND AT WILLOW GROVE.
Willow Grove, Pa. (AP) -- A jet plane coming in for a landing at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Sunday crashed through the roof of a department storm a half-mile from the runway. The pilot was killed and between 30 and 35 persons injured.
Navy authorities launched an investigation into the cause of the crash which killed Lt. Cmdr. ROBERT HAVEN, 36, of Columbus, Ohio, a reservist described as a "veteran with 4,000 flying hours and the best pilot in his squadron."
Officials said there were 75 to 100 shoppers and 30 to 40 employes in the discount store operated by a chain known as Bargain City, USA. Less than one-fourth of the departments were open, due to Pennsylvania's blue laws which permit only sales of certain essential merchandise on Sundays.
An eyewitness said that after the plane crashed there appeared to be panic as persons inside the store tried to get out.
"It was very quiet," said Peggy Gotwolz, 23, of Hatboro, Pa., "then all of a sudden this crash. There was glass falling. I didn't even seen the plane. When I saw everyone running I picked up my child and started to run too. If seemed like everyone was for himself."
All the injured including four firemen, were treated at nearby Abington Memorial Hospital and released with the exception of META KENNEDY, 52, of Horsham, Pa.
Fire Chief Samuel Salerno, of nearby Horsham, who directed 400 civilian firemen, said the Navy FJ3 Fury fighter landed in a section of the store in which the departments were closed.
Salerno said the plane exploded twice after it hit and burst into flames.
Ed Fernandez said he was sitting on his porch about 150 feet away when he saw the plane "loop over once."
"It appeared to be too low," he said. "It took off again, to circle the field and again looped over, but it still seemed too low. A moment later the plane suddenly flipped over and down. Then boom!"
An eyewitness to the accident said that after the plane crashed there appeared to be panic as those persons inside tried to get out.
"It was very quiet," said Mrs. Peggy Gotwolz, 23, of Hatboro, Pa.
"Then all of a sudden this crash. There was glass falling. I didn't even see the plane. When I saw everyone running I picked up my child and started to run, too. Men, woman and children were running. The men didn't seem to stop to help the children. It seemed like everyone was for himself."
Salerno said he didn't think anyone was in the immediate area where the plane fell, leaving a huge hole and scattering glass and debris in the single-story, block-long building.
He said the plane exploded twice after it hit and burst into flames. The aircraft, the Navy's version of the Air Force F86 Saber, was ripped apart, its wreckage strewn over an 80-foot section of the store.
Cmdr. John Hannigan, base information services officer, said the pilot had taken a "voluntary waive off," meaning he chose not to land on the first approach but rather to go around.
Hannigan said the pilot reported no trouble. He said he didn't know why he chose to go around.
Willow Grove authorities said that in recent years they had changed the flight landing pattern so that two schools and heavy populated areas in the vicinity would be bypassed.
Delaware County Daily Times Chester Pennsylvania 1961-08-28