Butte, MT Air Liner Crashes Near Airport, Nov 1950


Butte, Nov. 8 -- (AP) -- A curtain of snow lifted on the continental divide today long enough for searchers to reach the burned wreckage of an air liner which carried 22 persons to their death in a blizzard.
Ground parties reached the Northwest Airlines plane at 10:25 o'clock this morning. They reported the four crewmen and the 18 passengers were dead.
Routine clearance was obtained from Coroner KYLE SCOTT at WHitehall to bring the bodies here.
Ground searchers got to the wreckage within two hours after Butte Police Chief BART J. RILEY relayed a search radio report that a helicopter found the burned wreckage of a Northwest Airlines plane which vanished in a blizzard with 22 aboard.
His statement said there was "no sign of life" in the wreckage, spotted about 200 yards below the backbone of the continental divide.
He said the wreckage was near the hear of Modesto canyon, which cut up the east side of the divide.
Only Six Miles.
Officials at the Butte airport pinpointed the scene of the crash at six miles due east of the field.
Police Officer GEORGE STANICH, flying a plane with Lt. ROBERT V. JOHNSTONE, Butte reserve officer, first discovered the wreckage from the air.
STANICH'S plane was not equipped with radio so they were forced to return to the airport to report their find. A helicopter then was sent to the scene and reported the wreckage appeared to have burned and no signs of life were apparent.
Search parties on foot were struggling through deep snow toward the wreckage.
The Martin 202, carrying a crew of four and 18 passengers, apparently was letting down exactly on course between Whitehall and Butte when it smashed into the mountainside.
The search resumed at dawn today as the weather bureau warned that a cold front was moving down the divide.
Searchers concentrated on an area near Homestake, 12 miles southeast of here, where the Northern Pacific railroad crosses the backbone of the divide at an altitude of 6,400 fee.
Cold Is Due.
The low-hanging clouds, which lay along the top of the mountain range yesterday, lifted to about 10,000 feet this morning. But weathermen warned the ceiling would drop again in a few hours.
They predicted below-zero temperatures in the Homestake area by tonight.
National guardsmen joined the search today.
More than 60 men -- highway patrolmen, forest service officials and Butte police -- found nothing during a hazardous flashlight search last night prompted by a report of a "burned odor."
The plane, westbound from Chicago to Seattle, left Helena 66 miles northeast of here at 7:53 o'clock yesterday morning for Butte. The last radio contact was at 8:11 o'clock, when Pilot LLOYD LAMPMAN, 37, of Seattle, said he was over Whitehall about 50 miles south of Helena, starting his descent at 10,500 feet.
Between him and the mile-high local airport -- where the ceiling was about 2,500 feet, the visibility less than five miles -- lay the main range of the continental divide.
For the next hour and a half, every civil aeronautics administration communications station in the northwest tried to contact the twin-engined plane, which carried 18 passengers and a crew of four.
Organized Search.
Meanwhile, State Aeronautics Commissioner FRANK WILEY of Helena -- whose assistant, JERRY VERHEIST, was aboard the plane -- organized the search.
State Highway Patrol Chief E. H. ENGLAND of Helena, directed the search on the spot. Radio linked him with the patrol office here, where Patrol Capt. L. E. BLACK was co-ordinating reports.
The forest service and law officers from Butte and Belgrade joined the hunt. The Bozeman police department sent walkie-talkies to search headquarters, set up in Whitehall, then moved to the SETZER ranch.
Aboard the plane were four crew members and 18 passengers. Ten of the passengers were Montanans and two were children.
The passenger list, as released by airline headquarters at St. Paul, included these Montanans:
CHARLES BILLER, Eurkea; MRS. CHARLES N. GRAY, Glasgow; W. J. WALSH, Billings; HAROLD RHEIN, Great Falls; GEORGE L. KILLORN, Havre; MRS. ARNOLD R. MENZEL, Great Falls; MRS. WALDEMAR J. BLACKS, and daughters, MARCIA JO, five months old and KAREN, Geyser; JERRY VERHELST, Helena.

Independent Record Helena Montana 1950-11-08


Butte Plane Crash 1950

Mrs. Waldemar J. Backa was my Aunt and she was Kay Luoma before marriage from Geyser. We always called Waldemar Walt. Her Parents were Thomas and Sanna Luoma. Karen and Marcia Jo were her children.

Butte Plane Crash 1950

Mrs. Waldemar J. Blacks should be Mrs. Waldemar J. Backa --my aunt