North Salem, NY Airliners Collide In Mid-Air, Dec 1965




North Salem, N.Y. (UPI) -- Two giant commercial airliners collided in the air over a suburb of New York City Saturday night, sending one of them plunging to a fiery crash on a mountain. The other limped to safety at an airport with one wing partially sheared off.
State Trooper J. P. Christian reported from the crash scene on Hunt Mountain in North Salem that eight to 10 bodies were believed to be in the charred wreckage of the crashed plane, an Eastern Air Lines constellation.
Some 40 injured, some of them walking, were rushed to hospitals in Danbury, Conn., Brewster, N.Y. and Mr. Kisco, N.Y.
A total of 111 persons was aboard the two airliners when they smashed together some 30 air miles from New York City. The bigger plane, a Trans World Airlines Boeing 707 jetliner, proceeded to Kennedy Airport in New York City where passengers alighted by chutes and regular passenger ramps. The only injury aboard was a nosebleed suffered by a stewardess.
The Constellation, a four-engine, propeller-driven shuttle plane en route from Boston to Newark, N.J., broke in two and went up in flames as it struck the ground in an open field on the sloping mountain.
Daniel Williamson, 15, who witnessed the crash, said the pilot appeared to be trying for an emergency landing when the airliner roared into the side of the hill and burst into a mountin of flame. He said the plane slid uphill, split and that passengers began scurrying to get out of the wreckage.
The wreckage was spread over an area of about 300 yards with the engines in widely scattered places and some sections of the fuselage burned out shells.
CATHERINE DE PUE, 22, Detroit, a stewardess aboard the Constellation, walked away from the crash with only singed hair.
But she described how she stood near the plane's exit door for upwards of five dramatic minutes and struggled with some of the passengers to keep them from jamming into the rear lounge, where they thought it would be safer.
She said the plane split in two when it jolted to a stop on the mountain slope. She said passengers when easily escaped through the break in the fuselage although some of them, apparently those near the engines, suffered burns.
"I heard a loud crash," MISS DE PUE said. "Then the captain told us we were going to make a crash landing. It took five or 10 minutes to reach the ground. We really didn't know whether the plane would crash because it kept leveling off and then dropping again."
"We eventually told everybody to stay in their seats and fasten their seat belts," MISS DE PUE continued. "They did. And I sat in my seat waiting, waiting. Then it came. My hair was singed. Oh, I'll have to have it cut."
Four hours after the crash, all reports indicated that despite the dramatic nature of the collision, the fatility list promised to be light as compared to the last similar occurrence here.
When a United Air Lines jetliner and a TWA constellation collided over Staten Island five years ago 134 persons were killed, six of them on the ground. Eleven houses also were set afire.
Danbury hospital reported it received 27 crash victims, two of them in very serious condition. Two others were reported in serious condition. All were placed in an intensive care unit. Several of the passengers also were treated at the hospital and released.
The Mt. Kisko, N.Y., hospital reported one dead on arrival and identified him as J. M. WILKERSON, JR., of Summit, N.J. The hospital also reported it had seven injured, including a man identified as EVERETT ASTROFF who was reported in critical condition. Of the other injured, four were admitted and two treated and released.
The Putnam County, N.Y. Hospital treated five injured, three of whom were released and two admitted in fair condition.
Chief Richard McGlynn of the Richfield, Conn. Fire Department, who arrived at the crash scene about 20 minutes after the crash, said about a dozen persons lay all over the field. He said they included a woman and child.
Pfc. James McGinnis of Union City, N.J., who was not injured, said "it was my first flight."
"There was a big thud," he said. "The plane's engines were racing all the time and it sounded like the pilot was trying to climb when the crash came."
Saturday night flood lights were brought tothe crash scene approximately 1,000 feet above sea level. A half dozen fire companies from surrounding communities were on hand. Parts of the plane still smouldered and the engines were still hot.
Pfc. Antonio Ghisalberil, 20, of Union City, N.J., jumped through the broken fuselage to safety.
The seams of his uniform were split at the shoulder. There was blood on the collar of his uniform and his hand was bandaged. He had some face bruises and his crew cut hair was singed. But he was in good condition.
There were 53 persons aboard the constellation, 58 aboard the jetliner.
The crash ocurred at 4:20 p.m. EST.
Two of the constellation's three tail rudders were found in the field near the crash scene. The other was found five miles away in south Salem.
As rescue workers aided the injured, snow flurries fell on the hill where the wreckage was located.

Port Arthur News Texas 1965-12-05


Hunt Lane plane crash

When I became a Ridgefield Police Officer in 1985 the old-timers on the department told me about this crash. They said they stuck a road flare in the ground marking where every body was. When the officer looked back across the field, he saw a sea of burning flares. There is a monument to the passengers and crew on Hunt Lane. I believe the pilot was from Redding CT.