Charleston, WV Air Liner Slides Off Runway, May 1959



Investigators swarmed all over a broken, burned and heavily guarded Capital Constellation at Kanawha Airport this afternoon. But the man who could tell them most about the crash that killed two of the 44 aboard it yesterday was not talking. He wasn't able.
He is the pilot, RICHARD OHM, 32, of Falls Church, Va., in Charleston General Hospital, severely but not critically hurt.
AUSTIN WHITE of the Airlines Pilot Association said OHM'S physician told him the pilot was not ina a condition to be questioned.
"But he will be able to talk," WHITE said, and the ALPA was bringing a Captain PATTERSON to Charleston today, to stay until the probe is completed. It may take a year, WHITE added, before release of the federal government's official findings.
Eyewitnesses said the pilot was bringing the big plane in on his second landing attempt. It was on a 4,800-foot runway with the wind three miles an hour or less.
Attempted Left Turn.
He passed the intersection of a taxiing strip, rolled to the intersection of the main runway where he swung the airplane hard to his left. Its momentum carried it sideways over an embankment from which it slipped tail-first into a 200-foot-deep gully.
A few hundred feet farther and the plane, which is not equipped with reversible propellers to slow its ground speed, whould have plunged off the end of the runway and into a much deeper ravine.
The $1,500,000 craft with a capacity of 70 passengers exploded and burned as most of those aboard scrambled to safety uninjured in a near-miracle of survival with long odds against them.
Six persons were injured to a degree requiring hospitalization. None was reported in a serious condition today.
Ten were treated for minor injuries and released.
Twenty-nine persons were taken either to Charleston General of Charleston Memorial Hospitals. Of that number 13 were found uninjured.
The accident occurred at 3:26 p. m. ad the big plane landed from the southeast to the northwest. The flight originates in Buffalo, N. Y., lands at Pittsburgh, Charleston and then flies non-stop to Atlanta, Ga.
Tower Man Questioned.
One of the first persons to be questioned behind closed doors at the airport was WILLIAM BUTLER, FAA comptroller in charge of the control tower at Kanawha Airport.
According to Airport Manager CALVIN F. WILSON, there was nothing unusual about asigning the big plane the shorter of the two runways. The longer one that parallels the front of the terminal, was closedd. It is being lenghtener by 400 feet.
Some of the investigators wtayed in the terminal conference rooms. Capital representatives huddled in the office behind the ticket counter.
And parts of all groups were at the crash scene. The State Police had the entire area roped off and admittance was strictly limited.
ORVILLE L. DICKINSON, 39, of Atlanta, Ga., chief enginner of the Southern Clay Pipe Institute, believes it was possibly brake failure, DICKINSON is a private pilot with 750 air hours.
Over Hill Tail-First.
RAUTINE, an aeronautics engineer, said the plane skidded severely about midway of the runway, looped on the ground and went over the hillside backwards.
"I looked out and knew we were headed for the boondocks," he said.
Another passenger said he heard a loud pop that might have been the blowout of a tire.
DICKINSON said he noticed no plane sag that would indicate a tire blowout.
CALVIN WILSON, airport manager, witnessed the accident from his office. He said it appeared that the pilot attempted to turn into the north-south runway from the east-west, ran off the concrete onto the wet grass and skidded over the hill.
Stewardesses MARSHALL and VIERA received high praise from the passengers for their cool bravery during critical moments when a flash explosion could have englufed the plane. MISS MARSHALL is 20 years old and MISS VIERA 19. THe latter was on only her 33rd trip since becoming a stewardess.
Doors Quickly Opened.
DICKINSON and others said the girls had the emergency doors open promptly and guided passengers from the plane with the admonition to keep calm and not shove.
ROBERT G. STAMPER, 27, of 11 Forest Rd., Charleston, said the accident happened so fast he did not have time to think about it. But he said that it seemed to him the pilot approached the runway "awfully fast."
The accident maked the first commercial aircraft fatality at Kanawha Airport since the hilltop installation was opened in 1947 at a cost of $3,000.000.
The accident sent a total of 23 ambulances to the airport from Charleston and South Charleston funeral homes.
Routes Kept Clear.
Charleston police, state troopers and sheriff's deputies quickly established road blocks to keep curious motorists from rushing to the airport. Highways and streets leading to hospitals were kept clear.
One veteran ambulance driver said he never saw emergency traffic flow more freely as the ambulances sped without hinderance to Charleston General and Charleston Memorial.
First fears were that a major tragedy had occurred as smoke from the gasoline-fed flames towered hundreds of feet into the air and were clearly visible from throughout downtown Charleston.
"If anybody comes out of there alive it will be a miracle," an unidentified caller told the Daily Mail from his office high in a downtown building.
The dead, both badly burned in the crash of a Capital Airlines Constellation at Kanawha Airport Tuesday, are:
B. J. MORRISON, 26, of Carlyle, Ky., a Capital pilot trainee riding between the pilot and co-piilot on the flight deck.
WILLIAM H. RILEY, of Rochester, N. Y., a passenger.
Those hospitalized are:
JOHN HOWANSKI, 39, 511 LaMarr Dr., Fairfax, Va., first and second degree burns on the hands and face.
RICHARD OHM, 32, pilot, of 7112 Rosenwood Rd., Springfield, Va., first and second degree burns of the face and hands.
FLOYD VARNEY, 44, Omar, Logan County, a coal compnay official, back injuries; admitted for observation.
JOHN HANNA, 39, of 5478 Ridgewood Rd., Pittsburgh, back and shoulder injuries; admitted for observation.
WILLIAM RUBY, 43, of Harrisburg, Pa., second degree burns on the face and hands.
All except RUBY are patients in Charleston General. RUBY is in Charleston Memorial.
Those requiring treatment before release at Charleston Memorial are:
MISS NANCY MARSHALL, 20, a plane stewardess, of Alexandria, Va., laceration on the left knee.
JAMES GUNDRY, 41, of Dearborn, Mich., lacerated left hand.
NED RANKIN, 27, of Coraopolis, Pa., a Capital Airlines employe deadheading south; second degree burns on the right hand.
G. T. SCHUCHAN, 62, Buffalo, N. Y., contusions of the left shoulder.
MRS. RUTH RICHARDS, 58, Wexford, Pa., superficial neck burns.
HORACE JENKINS, Houston, Tex., multiple contusioins and leg lacerations.
MISS RAE RUDMAN, 22, of Sewickley, Pa., a Capital Airlines stewardess deadheading south; superficial scratches on the hands and legs.
Treated and released at Charleston General:
LEONARD LEICHING, 35, of 701 Vermont St., Brooklyn, N. Y., fractured rib.
BERT RAUTINE, 28, of 524 West Hazel Dr., Orlando, Fla., back and shoulder injuries.
CARL McNALLY, 53, of 42 Ferndale, Kenmore, N. Y., back and leg injuries.

Charleston Daily Mail West Virginia 1959-05-13