Dawson, TX Airplane Crash, May 1968


Tragedy Occurs During Storm

DAWSON, Tex. (AP) - A Braniff International Electra with 84 persons aboard exploded or caught first while flying through a turbulent rainstorm Friday and crashed into Central Texas creek bottomlands. There were no survivors.

The four-engine turboprop plane slammed to earth shortly before 5 p. m. and scattered pieces of debris and bodies over a half mile square area.

It was Braniff's Flight 352 en-route from Houston to Dallas, and marked Texas' worst air travel disaster.

Most of the wreckage was gouged into a 75-by-75-yard section of an abandoned farm three miles northeast of Dawson or some 90 miles south of Dallas.

The largest pieces were four or five almost-intact seats. First witnesses at the scene said apparently no bodies were intact. Many were burned.

"I looked up and there were flames all over the plane and it went down," said JERRY MERRILL, a Dawson high school mathematics teacher.

Authorities picked up pieces of bodies in sacks and sheets and took them to the high school gymnasium.

The FBI dispatched a disaster squad to help state police and Braniff officials identify the victims.

The flight lest Houston at 4:11 p. m., eleven minutes late, and Braniff said the last radio contact was at 4:14, when the pilot said his estimated arrival time in Dallas was 5:03, or five minutes late. It was to have proceeded on to Tulsa, Fort Smith, Little Rock and Memphis.

Five crewmen and 79 passengers perished. Braniff identified the crew, all based in Dallas, as: Capt. J. R. PHILLIPS, First Officer JOHN W. "JACK" FOSTER, Second Officer STEVE W. CROSSLAND, hostess JO CAROL BRAND, originally of Taylor, N. D., and hostess SUZANNE RENZ, originally of South Orange, N. J.

The airline said it might be noon Saturday before all the names of the passengers were made public.
JERRY STRADER, publisher of the Corsicana Sun, was one of the first at the scene.

"I saw no survivors, no bodies intact," he said. "At least 50 percent of the bodies appeared to be burned."

"The pieces of the plane were just fragmentary. The largest piece I saw was just a portion of the landing gear."

Heavy rail and hail hampered initial rescue teams trying to get to the scene.

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Braniff flight 352 crash

In one of the narratives of this crash it is said that the FBI sent an idntification team to assist identifying the bodies. I personally was in charge of the Texas Department of Public safety Identification Team. We were already there several hours before the FBI team arrived, I personally asked them to leave from experience with them before at a Brabiff ceash at BUfallo TX 9/29\1959. They left and DID NOT participate in identifying the bodies, We identified ALL the bodies and released them to a local funeral home. Also I worked very close with Braniff rep Harry Mc Kellop . He advised me that a Molly Ann Dawson was on board the craashed plane and please notify him when shew was found. When I notified him it was then that he told me she was his secretary and became very emotional. My main objective of this meno is to clarify that the FBI had nothing to do with identifying the bodies of this crash. Harry if you read this I now live in Waco. I still remember you very well. J,D. Chastain

My grandmother and her sister

My grandmother and her sister were on this flight, en route to Dallas to welcome home my uncle from his tour of duty in Vietnam - and for the next ten years my uncle, suffering from what we now call PTSD, in the depths of depression and blaming himself for the loss, took his own life.

Having visited the memorial in Dawson, I am forever reminded of the fragments of heartbreak and emotional anguish that lingered on, affecting my parents, and my grandfather, and even into my life as I struggled to put together exactly why it was painful to ask what happened.

It is a strong testament to the incredible distance that aviation has come since 1968 - sadly though, the lessons learned at the expense of those whose lives were lost, could not be learned any other way; what lessons are we yet to learn? I only pray the consequences are nonesuch the same.

Vietnam vet

Sammy Joe Dobbs is buried at Floral Haven Memorial Gardens in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Vietnam vet

The Coricana paper reported a coffin of a Vietnam vet was aboard the plane----- there was a Vietnam vet on the plane but, he was alive. I didn't see his name on the passage list - his name was Sammy Joe Dobbs-- he was heading home to Tulsa Ok to see his family. I am sure he was flying military standby.

1968 Braniff air crash Dawson, TX

The Corsicana paper reported a coffin of a Vietnam vet was aboard the plane and, the coffin shielded one passenger. NOT TRUE....unless there were 2 coffins. My mother's coffin was on the plane. She had died the day before, from Cancer, in Houston. Mom's body was being transported to Tulsa for burial. Even though Mom had already passed we were devastated. Dad recently died and, all the memories of this horrific event are very fresh...as I found letters he had written to Braniff trying to receive payment for a new coffin which Braniff airlines agreed to.

Mom was Mildred Thelma Linde Wilkinson...bless her and all the victims..