Boston, MA Jetliner Crashes On Landing, July 1973

Boston MASS site of crash.jpg


Boston -- Federal, state and airline officials continue today to investigate the worst aviation tragedy in Boston's history, all seeking the answer to the same question -- Why?
Eighty-eight persons were killed yesterday when a Delta Airlines DC-9 jet, Flight 723 from Burlington, Vt., undershot the runway, struck a concrete seawall and disintegrated, skidding several hundred feet.
The lone survivor of the crash, LEOPOLD CHOUINARD, 20, of Marshfield, Vt., is in "critical" condition at Massachusetts General Hospital with third degree burns on 85 per cent of his body.
Although investigators have indicated they don't know the exact cause of the crash, they did says the plane, which was making an instrument landing, came down too soon while making a landing approach. Airport officials told The Sun the landing was approximately 3500 feet short of the runway area where it was supposed to touch down.
Meanwhile, Rep. Raymond F. Rourke (D-Lowell) chairman of the House Transportation Committee, has said that he plans to ask his committee to begin an investigation into the crash with emphasis placed on safety regulations at Logan.
One aspect of the crash on which the probe is centering is the reported nine-minute or more delay between the crash and the time Logan officials knew of the crash.
Air traffic officials said a number of things could have gone wrong but a definite cause must await the determination of federal investigators.
Airport officials said radar picks up a plane and guides it in until it reaches a distance of two or three miles from the airport and then the control tower takes over. Officials said the control tower was in contact with the DC-9 until minutes before impact.
Jack Halloran, Massport Information officer, said the plane should have been approximately 200 feet higher that the seawall and at a speed of 110-125 miles per hour at that point in its approach to the runway.
Richard Mooney, director of aviation for the Massachusetts Port Authority, said there were two planes ready to land on the same runway at two-minute intervals behind the Delta flight. Both pilots later signaled the tower that they wished not to land because of the dense fog. Neither of the pilots reported seeing the crash, officials said.
In routine talk with the plane at 11:08 a.m., "There was no word of trouble," said William C. Keepers, the airport's chief traffic controller. "The pilot was issued clearance to land, given runway visual range of 6,000 feet and acknowledged the transmission," said Keepers. "That was the last contact."
Meanwhile, families of the 88 dead filed through a crowded county morgue at Boston City Hospital yesterday and last night and tried to identify the remains. Officials compiled fingerprints and dental records of those burned beyond recognition.
The ill-fated plane left Burlington, Vt., at 9:12 a.m. -- 12 minutes behind schedule. It made an unscheduled stop in Manchester, N. H., to pick up passengers stranded there when another flight to New York was cancelled because of fog.
As the plane taxied out at Manchester, the pilot announced that takeoff would be delayed for about 45 minutes, and one passenger demanded to get off when he realized he wouldn't make a business appointment on time. The pilot turned the plane around and the passenger -- CHARLES R. MEALY -- got off.
Four of the victims of the crash were headed for New York to escort a busload of "fresh air program" children to Derry and Nashua, N. H.

Boston -- The Logan Airport fire station garage was turned into a makeshift mortuary.
"They just laid the bodies on the floor and lined them up," said a construction worker. "They're all burned."
Two miles away, and still shrouded in fog, was the wreckage of a Delta Airlines DC-9.
A steady stream of emergency vehicles came to and from the crash site. Each vehicle was carrying a body.
A white-robed ambulance attendant, his smock stained with blood and ash, refused comment as he was questioned by newsmen. He was leaving the body-littered station.
Appearing quite shaken and pale, the red-haired intern quickly disappeared into a section of the station cordoned off from the press.
Two priests, recently returned from the crash scene, stood together. Minutes later they fielded questions from reporters in a grim, methodical fashion.
"When I arrived here, I was taken to the crash scene, and there were bodies strewn all over the field. I pray for them," said one of the priests.
A fireman, his face covered with perspiration, looked at the crash scene. He said when he arrived there he saw victims still strapped in their seats. One man, he said, had no legs.
The smell of death lingered in the area. A lone state trooper walked slowly through the small piles of debris that remained.
Colorful red, white and blue seats were helter-skelter on runway 4R, blackened and crushed.
Small huddles of officials moved slowly about the crash site. Each group took turns answering questions, though not having any more knowledge than many of the reporters who had been at the scene since the crash.
All that remained was a 10-foot fragment of the fuselage. The pale yellow of the plane's interior was in sharp contrast to the black pile of ashes from which the section protruded.
The front wheels of the plane, charred and misshapen, were thrown approximately 300 yards from the tail section of the plane.
Amid mass confusioni in the media room, Arnold Koch, a representative of Massport, tried to keep newsmen informed on new developments. Meanwhile, speculation ran rampant as to the number dead. But there was no question about the bodies in the fire station.
Heavy fog covered the airport when the plane crashed. "It was zero visibility," one fireman said. Still, the fog was not thick enough to close one of the nation's busiest air terminals.
Visibility was a half-mile and there was a 400-foot ceiling. Minimum conditions at Logan call for a 200-foot ceiling and a half-mile visibility.
The airport was closed from 6 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. It was reopened when officials decided that the fog had lifted substantially.
Nobody is really sure what happened. All the facts will have to be pieced together and a report will be issued.
A chunk of seawall at the end of the runway at the edge of Boston Harbor is missing apparently struck by the jet. The plane apparently skidded along the runway, spewing bodies and debris.
"It was horrible," said John F. Halloran, Massport public relations director.
Yesterday's crash was the first fatal one in the history of Delta Airlines. Delta has been operation since 1932 and recently merged with Northeast Airlines.
It was several minutes before the Logan control tower knew of the crash. Officials said it was because of the fog.
A tired and solemn faced deputy fire chief, one of the first to arrive at the crash scene, told The Sun. "We couldn't see anything. Visibility was zero."
He added, "Bodies were everywhere. When we were 50 yards from the crash site we saw fire. The fuselage was gone, disintegrated. Everything was cracked open."
Minutes after the crash the airport was closed. Three hours later, after the confusion had subsided, the roar of an outbound 727 jetliner was heard, breaking the deathly silence which had permeated the area.

Atlanta (UPI) -- Delta Air Lines announced Tuesday night a list of all passengers aboard Flight 723, which crashed in Boston. Delta noted that the list was compiled from ticket information, not upon positive identification of bodies.
The dead inlcuded:
BAKER, MRS. MARIAN, St. Albans, Vt.
BARNETT, MR. R., No address available.
BEAN, FRANCIS S., No address available.
BERGERON, JANE, Manchester, N. H.
BERGERON, WILLIAM, Manchester, N. H.
BOYLE, MS. No address available.
BRAU, CHARLES, Garden City, L. I., New York.
BROWN, ROSS, Louisville, Ky.
BYRUM, CHARLES, Richmond, Va.
CAMERON, DAVID K., Burlington, Vt.
CARPENTIERE, WINSTON, No address available.
CARY, MRS. ADELINE, No address available.
CUMMINGS, MR. R., Boston, Mass.
DARCY, G. MINOT, Cannan, Conn.
DE SCHMERIZING, ILONA, No address available.
DAVENPORT, MR. HERBERT, No address available.
FLEURY, MRS. PATRICIA, Burlington, Vt.
FRAWLEY, SHEILA AGNES, 14, Los Angeles, Calif.
FULLER, MR. JOSEPH, Londonderry, N. H.
FULLER, MRS. JOSEPH, Londonderry, N. H.
GOSSELIN, MRS. MARY, Winooski, Vt.
HALELSIG, MRS. JEAN, Clearwater, Fla.
HALELSIG, MR. KENNETH, Clearwater, Fla.
HALL, CLARENCE R., Bradford, N. H.
HANNA, MR. RICHARD D., Shelbourne, Vt.
HOAG, MRS. M., Grand Isle, Vt.
HUBBELL, MR. C., Burlington, Vt.
JACKSON, MERIAN, Manchester, N. H.
KAPOPOULOS, MRS. ORA S., No address available.
KESTER, MR. JOHN G., Stamford, Conn.
KOTEFF, JAY, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
KOTEFF, TRACY, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
KNAPP, MR. D., No address available.
LAFONTAINE, MR. GEORGE, Enosberg Falls, Vt.
LEY, ALEX, New York City.
LYNN, MS. PAMELA, No address available.
MacARTHUR, MR. R., Manchester, N. H.
McMAHON, MR. ROBERT F., Norwell, Mass.
MEEHAN, MR. H., No address available.
MEEHAN, MR. M., No address available.
METZ, LIZA, Essex Junction, Vt.
METZ, MR. ROBERT, Essex Junction, Vt.
MOLIN, JEAN, No address available.
MOLIN, WILBUR, No address available.
MORAN, MR. ROBERT, No address available.
MORAN, MRS. ROBERT, No address available.
PATUNOFF, YVETTE, C., Shelbourne, Vt.
PAULL, WILLIS, Sheridan, Mt.
PENNEY, ALFRED, Newport, Vt.
PROVOST, M., No address available.
RACE, MRS. SHIRLEY, Winooski, Vt.
RACE, JR., SCOTT, Winooski, Vt.
RICHARDS, NORMAN, New Hampshire.
RUANE, JOHN J., Hudson, N. H.
SMITH, JILL A., Boca Raton, Fl.
SMITH, MARION L., Burlington, Vt.
SMOTH, MRS. JUDITH, Manchester, Vt.
SWIFT, LILA, No address available.
THOMPSON, ROBERT, Essex Junction, Vt.
VINCENT, BETTE J., No address available.
WARREN, MS. LOUDE, No address available.
WATTS, MS. SANDRA, No address available.
WIGGIN, JR., CHESTER, Contoocook, N. H.
Capt. JOHN N. STREIL, JR., Lynnfield, Mass.
First Officer SIDNEY WHITE BURRILL, Winthrop, Mass.
JOSEPH E. BURRELL, Delta crewman on board.
ANNA LEE MOORE, Houston, Stewardess.
JANICE LEA WILSON, Houston, Stewardess.
LEOPOLD CHOUINARD, 20, Marshfield, Vt.

Lowell Sun Massachusetts 1973-08-01


Capt. John Streil

My father flew with Capt. John Streil for 20 years at Northeast/Delta Airlines, and was next in line on the pilot seniority list. There wasn't a pilot that my dad respected more, and this accident haunted him for the rest of his career. Whatever truly happened that day will never be known, but my dad always believed that if it could happen to John it could have happened to anyone.

Having lived in Vermont and New Hampshire over the years since, I have crossed paths with many families who were touched by this accident. My thoughts go out to all of them, as well as the families of the crew.

Name spelled wrong

Should be spelled Louise Thorne, not "Thorn".

Yes Joanna, I remember it

Yes Joanna, I remember it all too well too. What a horrible time in all our lives, but especially mother and daddy. Never remembered daddy crying until that day. Just can't imagine how they must have felt. What a tragedy for all the families involved. I barely remember the service or the burial. I was on nerve pills from the doctor, along with being pregnant, I hardly remember it all. But I do remember the quietness in the house.

Bette J. Vincent


FYI, my mother's Bette J. Vincent's home address was Fort Lauderdale, Fla. You need not post this message. Thank you for your website.

David Vincent

George Lafontaine

My next door neighbor, George Lafontaine was on this flight. I was 13 when this happened, and I've never forgotten. I baby sat for George and his wife, Denise, and George was active in our neighborhood with taking us kids to ball practice at the park.

Our Fathers

I know my Dad considered your dad, Johnny as one of his best friends. I filmed them playing tennis,playing my drumset and my dad power shifting his Camaro Indy Pace car to show the FFA Surgeons that he had the dexterity to accomplish tasks that required hand, eye co-ordination. Your dad was my dad's biggest supporter in his pursuit ti regain his flight status. Johnny was in many of the films I made. My Father held your Father in the highest regard as a Pilot and as a friend. John was always there for Jose, as he and the Northeast crews called my Dad. I appreciate your dad for being such a great friend to my Father , he was truly a good man, they both loved flying and truly took they jobs seriously knowing that the passengers safety was their responsibility.
. I never saw my Dad drink alcohol in the twenty two I had with him.
After all these years not a day goes by that I don't think of them both, That was the most horrible day in my life, I lost my dad, my hero and follow the lessons and ethics he taught me, to be the man and father I am today. July 31, every year brings back those horrible days.
I have the greatest sympathy for all who lost loved ones. And was appalled that the cause was labeled " Pilot Error " even after it was proven not to be, the cause was in fact faulty avionics. It's absolutely unfair that all the families who lost their beloved believe our Fathers failed at doing their jobs correctly. They were both professional and dedicated pilots.
My mom passed in 2005, and the headstone reads, flying together again at last. My mom was a stewardess before they married.

My best regards to you

Randy please feel free to contact me at


My father held your father in the highest regard. They died doing what they both loved. Although the circumstances involving the crash are still uncertain. I am sure we are both confident that the primary cause was the altimeter.

Best wishes,


to all

As the son of the captain of the plane, my heart goes out to all of you. My father was an extraordinary pilot. His personal history as a commercial pilot as well as in WWII, speaks for itself. I understand that this tragedy affected many people. I personally think that the truth will never be known. Once again, my sympathy to all who were involved, as was I.

My 13 years old sister Jill

My 13 years old sister Jill Smith was on this plane as well. She was from Boca Raton, FL.

The Loss Of My Eldest Brother

My eldest brother Alex Ley was on this flight. He had flown from Manchester New Hampshire to go to a meeting in New York
At the time I was staying with him, his wife and son in Wolfboro NH for a couple of weeks. I was 15 at the time, his son was 11. I will never forget when his son Alex and I were told he was dead. He ran in one direction, I ran in another. The horror of that day will never leave me, as I am sure it won't for the families of the other passengers.
The strange thing is, Alex wasn't supposed to be on that flight. He had planned on going a couple of days earlier, but due to an ear ache, was unable to. He hadn't had an ear ache since he was a little boy. Some might say it was fate that put him on that plane.
My Mother had lost her eldest son, and never got over it.
I hope some good came out of this terrible tragedy.
I also hope that the other families have found a sense of peace after 37 years. My heart goes out to them.

I thank the authors of this article, as I was never told the details of the crash, and that always bothered me.