Lakewood, CA Twin Engine Plane Crash, Aug 1965
PLANE CRASH KILLS EIGHT.
2 FAMILIES WIPED OUT IN CRACKUP.
Lakewood, Calif. (AP) - Two families, en route for a surprise reunion at Niagara Falls, N.Y. were wiped out Saturday when a twin-engine plane plunged into a fog shrouded cemetery.
All eight aboard died.
The vacation trip ended minutes after takeoff when the plane ripped into gravestones just short of a line of homes, hurling blazing debris and the victims' bodies into residences.
The two couples and their children took off despite dense fog, bound for a reunion with the mother of the two women victims at Niagara Falls.
The plane struck just short of a line of homes, cracking gravestones in its path and hurling flaming wreckage - and victims' bodies - into residences.
Killed were two couples and their children. The women were sisters. Officers said there were no immediate members of the two families who didn't die in the crash.
The plane crashed moments after takeoff from Long Beach Airport. Officials there said visibility was limited by dense fog to three-eighths of a mile under a ceiling of 100-feet - too poor for a landing but enough for an instrument takeoff.
A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Agency said the pilot, JAMES WHITMARSH, 37, of Lakewood, acknowledged a normal takeoff at 400 feet.
Suddenly the plane, a converted military Beechcraft C45H transport, lost altitude and plunged into All Souls Cemetery in this suburban area 15 miles south of Los Angeles.
Parts of the plane, bodies and personal effects smashed through fences and settled in the backyards of startled residents. One of the vacation-bound travelers' cameras settled in a backyard swimming pool.
The victims were identified as:
JAMES WHITEMARSH, pilot; his wife MILDRED, and their children, TERRY, 16, and MARY MARGARET, 14; JAMES EDWARD DENT, 37, of Whittier, Calif.; his wife, REBECCA, and their children, PEGGY, 15, and RICHARD, 16.
The two women were daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Swearengen of Niagara Falls, a deputy said.
At Niagara Falls, another sister, Mrs. Mary Timm, said Mrs. Swearengen didn't realize the vacationers were going to arrive early, by air. Saturday she learned of the crash. Mrs. Timm said her mother "doesn't seem to realize what happened."
The crash caused a power failure in residences adjoining the cemetery.
A railroad spur separates the homes and the cemetery. Brush along it was ignited by the crash. The bulk of the disintegrated plane's cabin was caught by the tracks, catapulting the bodies - some still strapped in their seats - against the homes.
One body landed in the dining room window of the Joseph Rhoades home.
John Hagedorn, Rhoades's neighbor and his wife, Betty, were awakened by the noise.
Logansport Pharos Tribune Indiana 1965-08-08