Elkton, MD Lightning Explodes Air Liner, Dec 1963

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Elkton, Md. (AP) -- Eighty-two persons perished Sunday night in the explosion and flaming crash of a jet airliner near here during a lightning-streaked rainstorm.
Witnesses said they saw lightning hit the plane, transforming it into a ball of fire. They told of seeing some occupants spilled from the flaming wreckage as it plummeted into a cornfield.
The plane, a Boeing 707 on Pan American World Airways Flight 214, was minutes away from the end of its 4-hour, 15-minute Puerto Rico-to-Philadelphia run when it bucked into the storm and tragedy struck.
Pan American officials said 74 passengers, including several infants, and a crew of eight were aboard.
"We've been over the area," said Lt. Charles L. Andrews of the Maryland State Police, "and there are no living."
He spoke after a tour of the scene -- a rain-soaked jumble of confusion marked by patches of fire and still burning bits of wreckage.
"Many, many parts of bodies were found," said Andrews.
The plane left San Juan at 4:10 p. m. made a 50-minute stop at Baltimore and was midway along the last 104-mile jump to Philadelphia when its flight abruptly ended about two miles northeast of Elkton.
Shortly before the explosion, about two miles northeast of Elkton, the big four-engine jet had been groping its way toward Philadelphia on an instrument approach.
In the next instant it was shattered by a terrifying blast and falling in pieces into a rain-soaked cornfield and on nearby roadways.
The scene is some 54 miles northeast of Baltimore, where the plane had made a stopover moments earlier.
Mrs. Frank Ulmer, a resident of the rural crash area, said the crash had occurred shortly before 9 p.m.
A severe storm accompanied by lightning had hit the area about that time.
Mrs. Ulmer said her son, Clarence Ulmer, had seen the flaming wreckage of the plane plummet "like a big ball of fire."
Maryland State Police said the recovery of bodies had begun within 90 minutes after the crash.
"It was an explosion in the air," said a state police headquarters official.
Witnesses said one of the plane's four engines barely had missed one of the few homes in the area, and burning parts of the craft set some of the area aflame.
The area was soon aswarm with fire trucks, state police and spectators who clogged the roads and impeded the passage of officials and rescuers.
The Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington said a team of about 10 investigators was en route to the scene.
An FAA spokesman in Washington said the plane was on a holding pattern near the New Castle, Del., airport, flying at 5,000 feet and awaiting clearance to approach the Philadelphia International Airport.

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