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


59 Crash Buffalo,Tx ''Caused by UFO''


KEYHOE: Well, you know, this subject — I wish I had never even got dragged into it — is the most infuriating thing. I think it’s the biggest deception in the history of the United States. One man I know, a TV newsman, he didn’t want to be quoted, he said, “You’re not right. It’s something else. It’s even bigger than that.” But I don’t think so. The strange part of it is that it’s lasted 30 years! And it took a long time before I could see the reasoning back of it. They’ve had one crisis after another. One case that I know of that scared headquarters badly was that Braniff airliner destruction over Texas in ’59. You know that case?

PRATT: What is this now?

KEYHOE: The Braniff airliner that disintegrated over Texas in 1959. It was four nights after the Air Force tried to force down a UFO near Redmond, Oregon. This thing had been hovering and changing positions but was down fairly low. The FAA flashed word to the Air Force and the Air Force sent six jets and grabbed two more that were nearby and they came in and started to try to force this thing down. Well, the object shot flames from the under section and went right straight up through the middle of the jet group. It’s a wonder it didn’t knock one of them out. This thing was tracked by radar, going up and down and so forth, and quite a lot of people saw it. It was near dawn and it got some publicity. The Air Force came out and said it was a balloon. Anyway, four nights after that, this Braniff airliner was flying over Buffalo, Texas, and a glowing object was seen off to one side and something appeared to shoot out of it toward the airliner, and the next instant the airliner completely disintegrate. One of the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board, later the FAA) men said that there was no question about whatever caused it was from outside. And a Braniff vice president said absolutely no bomb could possibly have caused such complete utter destruction. And an Air Force major flying a bomber near there said he saw this thing happen and it was like a typical A-bomb explosion. When that got to headquarters, they were scared because that could have made headlines all over the United States. I still don’t understand why it didn’t. There have been several cases of bad scares. But it’s been going on and that it is part of the reason for the constant ordeal. They never know at (Air Force) headquarters what’s going to happen next.
This is an excerpt of a phone call between former Major Donald Keyhoe and some investigator named Pratt AOMWTIME IN 1978. I am a UFOLOGIST and study this most closely and am looking into the UFO phenomenon being of malevolent in nature it is part of the reason this is hidden from us,

Buffalo TX plane crash


My grandfather Jack Schindleheim was on that plane. where exactly is the site. I would love to go see it. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but I would like to see the site of the crash as a way to connect to him.

Was wondering exactly where

Was wondering exactly where this stone memorial is.I live on Star-route road and was told that the accident possibly occurred somewhere here on my property. However none of my neighbors have been able to confirm this.

Buffalo Crash Site

My father Harry Dahl was one of the victims. Our family installed a stone memorial at he site.

That was my uncle, R.E White

That was my uncle, R.E White whose land the plane crashed onto

buffalo tx air crash

Hello Chris, I used to know someone that lived in that town at the time of the crash. The family was the Blalocks, Aunt Zelda (called Sister) Woodell, Father: Col. John Blalock, Mother: LucyMay Blalock, children: Joe, Kenny and Barry. Did you know them?
Please do not think me disrespectful, but is the area where the crash site accessible at this time and age?
Hope to hear from you.

Buffalo Gymnasium

This article names "Buffalo Gymnasium" as the place bodies were taken for identification. This gym was part of Buffalo High, JH, and Elementary (I think they were all at one campus at that time...). That gymnasium along with those buildings has since been demolished (circa 1997). I went to Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 6-8th grades school in those buildings from 1984 to 1993. 2nd-5th grades were taught in newer buildings on the campus which are still standing to the best of my knowledge. When I was there, the plane crash was a legend/ghost story among the students there. A new gym floor had been built over the one on which they had laid the passengers' remains. Under the bleachers, there was square opening in the new floor that led to the old floor. From time to time we would peer under the bleachers to look at the opening. I remember students claiming silly things like pieces of the plane that had crashed were used as braces under the new floor. That's all I have to say about that. Hello to anyone reading this comment who knows me!

Buffalo, Texas Electra Crash

The plane, registration number N9705C and was only eleven days old when it crashed. The Civil Aeronautics Board blamed the crash on the "whirl-mode" prop theory, that is severe vibrations caused the engine and wing to dismantel in flight. Shortly thereafter, another Electra turboprop went down in Tell City, Indiana (Northwest Orient Flight 710) when the right wing fell off in midair. Over 60 people died in that tragedy. The FFA then grounded all Electras at that point, forcing the craft to cut its flight speed.

In these crashes, NASA and Lockheed engineers eventually determined that the engine mounts allowed too much precessional movement of the propellers at a critical frequency which allowed "whirl-mode" aeroelastic phenomenon, "flutter" in flight. This flutter, by pure chance, occurred at the wings' natural resonance frequency, which further excited the harmonic oscillations, which increased the wing flutter, that eventually led to separation of a wing from the fuselage. The engine mounts were redesigned, and the wing stiffened so the problem was solved by 1961. The flying public's confidence in the Electra, however, had been dealt a near-fatal blow.