Buffalo, TX Aircraft Explosion Kills 34, Sep 1959


Waco, Tex., Sept. 30 (AP) -- A big Houston-to-New York airliner exploded in the air last night, streaked across the sky like a comet and crashed. Thirty-four persons died as it struck on a central Texas farm.
The ship was a 75-passenger Braniff Airways turboprop Electra. It carried 28 passengers and a crew of six. It had scheduled stops at Dallas and Washington.
There was no immediate explanation for the crash.
Braniff President CHARLES E. BEARD told newsmen that any statement from the company on the possible cause of the crash would be conjecture and will be determined by federal authorities.
He said the presence aboard of a maintenance engineer, WENDELL J. IDE, probably had no significance.
The plane, costing $2,300,000, was placed in operation only nine days before the crash.
A foggy dawn revealed masses of torn bodies, blooksoaked clothing and mail, with the odor of the plane's kerosene fuel pervading the air.
JACK MILLER of Braniff at Houston said the plane arrived in Houston 22 minutes late and thus was 22 minutes late in leaving the terminal. It became airborne seven minutes later at 10:44 p.m. (CST), MILLER had no explanation of why the craft arrived late.
BRUCE CHAMBERS of the Federal Aviation Agency's control office in Fort Worth, said the ship was flying on an instrument plan at 15,000 feet. It made its last report about 11:06 p.m. when east of Waco, CHAMBERS said. He described the report as a routine filing on the plane's speed and altitude.
The pilot gave no indication of trouble at the time, he added.
Broken clouds hovered over this area then. There was thunderstorm activity about 75 miles to the northwest but none in the immediate vicinity, the Weather Bureau said.
The airliner crashed on the R. E. WHITE farm, 5 miles southeast of Buffalo, a town of 1,200 population 68 miles southeast of Waco.
"It looked like it exploded as it came over out house, way up in the sky," said MRS. BILLY WEBB, 30. She and her husband watched from their home 5 miles north of where the wreckage hit.
The whole sky lit up. If kept on going, and it looked like a falling star.
"The light went out and we heard a terrific noise like a jet breaking the sound barrier. Then we heard it hit the ground and saw a tremendous explosion."
E. H. PICKENS, 45, feed store owner in Buffalo, saw the explosion and was one of the first to reach the crash scene.
He said there was mail, paper, packages, clothes and bits of bodies and plane wreckage strewn over a square mile of wooded farm country.
PICKENS said he believed the plane exploded in the air "because nothing burned. The smell of kerosene is all over the plane. And there were no fires except a little one where one of the engines hit the ground."
"The biggest piece of plane I found when I got out there was a section of fuselage about 15 or 20 feet long," he added.
"It wasn't the weather. There were quite a few stars out and just some little patchy cloudiness."
State polilce blocked the narrow dirt road to the crash scene from Buffalo.
In Washington the civil aeronautics board announced an immediate investigation of the crash.
Lockheed Aircraft builds the turboprop Electra.
A Braniff spokesman said the propeller driven Electra differs from a pure jet in its method of propulsion. The pure jet uses a stream of air from a large jet engine and power generated by the jet furnace drives the propeller.
Guards wearing pistols barred reporters from Braniff's main offices in Dallas. Executives conferred behind the doors, but a Braniff spokesman would only say that "we've got a big mess down there."
R. V. CARLTON, a Braniff vice-president, told reporters at the crash scene, that reports "certainly indicate an explosion but I don't know for sure at this stage."
"I don't know anything of the magnitude that has ever happened to us," CARLTON explained.
Rescue teams laid out the bodies on mattresses on the floor of the Buffalo gymnasium and covered them with Army blankets.
Identification teams moved through the rows of victims, seeking to determine identity of the torn bodies.
Two huge masses of bodies remained at the scene when dawn broke through a fog.
The bodies in the masses were so badly torn that officers said they could give no accurate indication at that time of the number of dead still in the area.
Vice president CARLTON said, "there is nothing to indicate any fire or smudge in the area." He pointed out that the kerosene used in jets and turboprop planes is much less explosive than aviation gasoline.

By Ed Overholser
Buffalo, Tex. (AP) -- Federal and state authorities joined residents of this East Texas town today in searching the rolling, wreckage-scarred woodland for victims of last night's Braniff Airways plane crash.
Fog and the blackjack and post oak trees which cover the red earth in this section hampered the search for the bits of bodies, cargo and metal that mark the spot where the four-engined turbo-prop craft plunged to earth with 28 passengers and a crew of six.
But scarce as the soupy light was, it was better than the night's blackness, broken only by the lights of television camera crews and flashlights of Texas Rangers, highway patrolmen and newsmen.
Airline officials and a growing number of newsmen plodded through the underbrush, seeking clues to the cause of the explosion which witnesses said ripped the big airliner and sent it crashing to earth from 15,000 feet up.
Men walked among a scene made grotesque by the litter that sifted down through the trees after the explosion which was seen 40 miles away as it turned the sky red.
Letters, clothing and one of the large black aircraft tires -- all soaked with blood -- were scattered through the disaster area.
A pair of blue pants hung in the branches of a tree; part of the torso of a man lay below.
The whole area was soaked with the kerosene used as fuel by the turbo-prop engines.
Lawmen piled the remains in heaps, covering them with anything at hand as they waited for ambulances to creep down the five-mile dirt road from U.S. 79 to the crash scene.
The only recognizable portion of the plane still intact was the tail section. The rest of the 75-passenger craft was literally shredded before it struck the earth.
What appeared to be the cargo compartment section of the fuselage and part of an engine came down in the potato patch of R. E. WHITE, about 100 yards behind the white frame house where the elderly farmer and his wife live.
WHITE said he and his wife were sitting on the porch watching television when the plane exploded. He said he ran into the yard and stood staring at the sky for at least five minutes before the rain of wreckage stopped.
"I was scared. I had a funny feeling. I didn't know what it was," he said.
He said after he realized a plane had crashed, he drove into Buffalo, about five miles away, to call the Highway Patrol.
"My wife thought it was lightning. It lit up the whole area and turned the skies red. It was pretty high in the air," WHITE said.
"I thought at first it might have been a jet breaking the sound barrier. It made the most God-Awful noise you ever heard of."

Dallas (AP) -- Braniff AIrways released today the names of 32 of the 34 passengers and crew members killed in the crash Tuesday night of an airliner near Buffalo, Tex.:
W. E. STONE, 47, Dallas, captain. A Braniff employe since 1939 and former flight instructor (widow, MILDRED).
DAN HALLOWELL, 39, Dallas, first officer. A Braniff employe since 1948 (widow, WINONA).
RONALD LONGHILL, 29, Dallas, engineer. Braniff employe since 1956 (widow, BETTY).
MISS ALVILYN HARRISON, 25, stewardess, (parents MR. and MRS. A. P. HARRISON, Wells, Tex.).
MISS LEONA WINKLER, 25, stewardess, (father, FRANK WINKLER, Minnesota Lake, Minn.).
MISS BETTY RUSCH, 23, stewardess, (parents Mr. and MRS. A. RUSCH, Wheat Ridge, Colo.).
Airline employes traveling as passengers:
WENDELL J. IDE, 35, maintenance engineer, Dallas.
W. E. STEVENSON, 35, Dallas, station agent for Braniff in Dallas.
Other passengers:
R. C. CONLEY, 39, Dallas, general manager of Strauss-Frank Co. of Dallas.
HARRY M. DAHL, 48, Dallas representative for Baker Laboratories.
MISS FAITH EADS, about 25, Oklahoma City, model for Ben Shaw Studios in Oklahoma City, on assignment to Neiman-Marcus Co., Dallas.
ALBRIGHT E. FERRELL, about 35, Houston, representative of Fairchild Aerial Surveys.
MRS. AGNES GALFIONE, about 50, League City, Tex. (husband, LAWRENCE GALFIONE).
FRANK W. GREER, (age unavailable), Brownsville, Tex., manager of Pel-Star Feed Lot Co., Los Fresnos, Tex.
CHARLES STEVEN KAUFMAN, 32, Dallas, manager of Dallas Branch of Lew Wenzel & Co., graphic arts supply firm.
H. D. MUMPER, (age unavailable), Shrewsbury, N. J., engineer with Combustion Engineering Co., New York.
CHARLES A NEHRING, JR., 38, Dallas, employe of Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.
J. P. PETKAS, 44, Houston, independent oilman and drilling contractor.
H. W. PETERS, 55, Houston, director of merchandising sales, Magnolia Paper Co.
CHARLES B. QUICK, 35, Houston, salesman for Mid-Continent Supply Co.
JACK SHINDELHEIM, (age unavailable), Dallas, jewelry salesman.
G. UFFNER, (age unavailable), New York City.
URBAN A WACKER, 45, Houston, U. S. government meteorologist.
DR. DONALD F. WILSON, 40, Dickinson, Tex., inidustrial psychologist and former University of Houston professor.
LEE H. HENDERSON, 45, Dallas, construction firm executive.
G. W. COOPER, (age unavailable), Dallas, Trans-Texas Airways employe.
HERMAN SEIGEL, (age unavailable), Newark, N. J. Sales manager, Savoy Records.
ADAM SOTO, (age unavailable), San Benito, Tex., stationed at Riley, Kansas.
JACK JACKSON, (age unavailable), Oklahoma City.
MRS. HELEN BRYCE, (age unavailable), began trip in Guatemala City, Guatemala, U. S. destination not immediately available.
STEPHAN BRYCE, 5, Guatemala City, son of MRS. BRYCE.
PAUL BRYCE, 3, Guatemala City, son of MRS. BRYCE.

Amarillo Globe-Times Texas 1959-09-30


Wreckage Location

The airplane crashed on my great-grandparents land. The Whites. Land is still owed by family.



I am curious. Who was your family? This land belonged to my great grandparents R.E. and A.M. White at the time of the wreckage. Famlily is still owed by family.

Braniff crash

My great grandparents wherr RE And A White who owned the land at the time. Tjey have both passed but land still belongs to family. I have been hearing about this wreck since I was a kid. Would be interested in the photos you have if the wreckage.

pictures/ information for family history.

the land that the plane crashed was my families. i just recently heard about the incident and became intrigued because of it being handled by the military and being quarantined. any info you have on the incident would be really interesting to learn. thanks Eddie


I was there at the plaque ceremony with my two children. very moving.

Accident Records JR


Would you be interested in contacting me? I recently researched a someone that was on that plane, and was looking for photographs of crash, etc.

Hi Ms. Dahl... Was the site

Hi Ms. Dahl... Was the site of the plaque right next to the access road of I-45 ??
Please reply to chetters345@yahoo ( dot )com
( I have changed the "dot com" so that hackers don't have so much ease finding the e-mail address !!!! )

Site of the crash

I worked at a law firm in Tyler, Texas starting about two weeks before 9-11, and worked there for 4 years.
During that time, part of my duties was to take pics of cars which had been involved in accidents for which the firm had been retained. There had been a real bad wreck on I-45, and some of the cars were towed from the scene by a man named "Everitt". I think it was Everitt's Wrecker Service or something similar. I went to his house to speak with him about what he might have known about the car accident, and during our conversations about our hobbies, et cetera, the subject came to my being a pilot & loving to fly. He then informed me that this flight, had hit the ground right beside his house, that was NOT there in 1959. He showed me a depression in the ground and then produced ALMOST ALL of the death certificates for those on board. He had become very interested in the crash because he & his wife had heard & seen things which were very unusual. I don't remember any names, but I DO remember that the death certificates were very old & done on a conventional typewriter. Chetters345@yahoo.com if you wanna' talk about it. There is more...

accident records

I have all the original Braniff files / records / photos for this accident, including the log book pages. Rescued them from a dumpster at Love Field in 1983. After the Braniff bankruptcy in 1982, the Braniff Maintenance and Engineering offices were being cleaned out. Managed to save most of all the accident records pertaining to Braniff.

59 crash

I irnstalled a wood and brass plaque on "Big Ben" a large tree at the White's farm in the 80's. We had several family members present. It was organized by the Buffalo paper.