North Bergen, NJ Private Plane Hits Apartment, Nov 1956


North Bergen, N.J. (AP) -- Some 3,000 residents had been cleared today from an area around an 810-foot television tower for fear it might topple following a plane crash which took four lives.
A twin-engine Beechcraft en route from Indianapolis was flying through rain and fog yesterday when it clipped off one leg of the latticed steel tower, believed to be the tallest structure in New Jersey.
The private plane then smashed into the top of a crowded apartment house eight blocks away. One engine was hurled into the courtyard of a parochial school. Flaming gasoline sprayed trees along the street.
Police said four persons are known dead -- two men who were in the plane and two women from the apartment house. One of the women jumped five stories to the street in panic as the building burst into flames.
Fifteen others were injured, one seriously. They included 12 firemen.
Mayor Angelo Sarubbi ordered some 3,000 persons in the area to evacuate their homes last night. About 500 volunteer workers helped them move in with relatives or into two schools thrown open as emergency centers.
The tower is owned by New York radio station WOR but has not been in use since 1953. Residents have been unsuccessful in court action to get the tower torn down as a hazardous nuisance.
WOR officials announced the top of the tower would be dismantled today. Gordon Gray, executive vice president and general manager of the station, said about 75 feet would be removed "as a precautionary measure."
Those tentatively identified as dead were:
RUSSEL S. WILLIAMS, 58, Indianapolis, president of the Bonded Gasoline and Oil Co., a subsidiary of Gaseteria, Inc. He was on his way to LaGuardia Airport, New York to meet his son and daughter-in-law returning from Europe.
WILLIAM CROMLEY, Tralfalgar, Ind., the pilot.
Definitely identified as dead were:
MRS. HARRIET PHEIPS, 58, wife of S. M. PHELPS, assistant chief engineer of the New York Times. He said he tried vainly to stop his wife from leaping from their kitchen window in fright at the explosion and flames.
MRS. FLORENCE PYNE, 55, who lived alone on the top floor of the five-story apartment.
FLORA STAMM, 52, a resident of the apartment house, said she was preparing to go downstairs for her mail when the impact shook the building.
"My hand was still on the doorknob when I heard this tremendous crash," she said.
"I was so frightened I stepped out and smoke began vcoming out of all three doors."
She rushed out screaming and rang the other apartments to alert residents to flee.
Another woman, DOROTHY MOUNET, said she looked out a window and saw a wing sliding down the side of the building. It struck a fire escape and crashed into the street.
She said a landing gear wheel dropped and "bounced like a basketball behind a moving car." The woman driver jumped out, too frightened to move.
One engine crashed through the roof of the garage of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel School. The 206 pupils in the school escaped injury, though 25 kindergarten children were lined up outside at the time.
Firemen brought the flames under control in two hours.
Mayor Sarubbi estimated damage at $100,000.
Six workmen climbed the tower this morning to hook a steel cable around a girder near the torn portion of the transmitter. A 17-mile-an-hour wind buffeted the shaky steel structure while they made the ascent.
The cable will be linked to a mobile winch on the ground which authorities hope will tear down 110 feet of tower, including 40 feet of mast or aerial. Mayor Sarubbi conceded "we may lose some houses" in the "directed drop."

Lebadon Daily News Pennsylvania 1956-11-09