Nr. Annapolis, MD C-119 Crashes On Take-Off, Mar 1954



Big Ship In Flames Before Hitting Earth; Explosion Follows.

Annapolis, Md., March 20 (AP) -- Eighteen occupants of a twin-engine C-119 died late last night when the big Air Force plane burst into flames a few minutes after taking off and crashed into a rain-swept cornfield.
The plane plunged to earth on a farm 19 miles south of Annapolis. Twisted pieces of wreckage and bodies were scattered over a 10-acre area. There were no survivors.
A heavy rain aided firemen in preventing the fire from getting out of hand. The plane grazed the edge of a wooded area just off Maryland Route 2 as it descended.
Witnesses reported the plane was on fire before the fatal plunge. It exploded at or shortly before the crash.
A spokesman at Bolling Air Force Base, from which the C-119 had left minutes earlier, said 12 passengers and six crewmen were aboard when the ship took off at 10:12 p.m. A watch found at the scene had stopped at 10:29.
The Bolling Public Information Office indicated it would be late today before identities of the victims were made known. First there was the grim task of identifying their bodies. Then relatives had to be notified.
An official said the plane, belonging to the 774th Troop Carrier Squadron based at Ardmore, Okla., had stopped at Bolling to refuel on a routine flight from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., to Mitchel Field, N. Y.
Virtually all the victims appeared to have been U. S. military personnel. Pieces of sailors' uniforms were found on the fringes of the crash scene.
There was also a sleeve bearing the chevrons of a Marine corporal.
A detachment of sailors and Marines from the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis stood guard over the area as a group of investigators from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., examined the wreckage for clues to the cause of the tragedy.
For a radius of 500 yards pieces of the plane, bodies and parts of bodies lay under the harsh glare of ambulance and fire truck searchlights. Red-and-white striped parachutes had been spread over some of the victims.
MRS. ROBERT ESTEP, who lives about a mile from where the plane crashed, said she saw it burning in the air as it roared over her house.
MRS. ALICE R. RIDGLEY, another resident, said it made "a terrible grinding sound -- like a heavy truck in low gear." Seconds later she heard it crash and saw the surrounding area light up.
"The whole house seemed afire," she said.
Flames spread from the wreckage to surrounding brush and timber, but a heavy rain at the time and quick arrival of firemen from half a dozen southern Maryland communities prevented it from getting out of hand.
DR. ELMER G. LINDHARDT, county medical examiner, was called on to help direct removal of the bodies.
The C-119 crash came at almost the same time another Air Force plane, a B26 from Vance Air Force Base, Okla., crashed into a swampy area to the south, near Amelia, Va. Four persons perished in that mishap.

The Daily Mail Hagerstown Maryland 1954-03-20