New York City, NY Plane Crashes At Idlewild, Oct 1953



New York (AP) -- An Eastern Airlines Constellation carrying 27 persons crashed in flames at fog-shrouded Idlewild airport early today shortly after taking off for San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three passengers were killed.
The four-engined airliner crashed at 12:56 a.m. (EST). Two hours later, with the wreckage still in flames, police said 12 others of the 22 passengers were injured and one was missing. The five crewmen were unhurt.
The crash scene was one mile east of the control tower at Idlewild. This is the world's busiest airport, and is 14 miles east of midtown New York City.
A survivor who was brought to the administration building shortly before 2 a.m. expressed belief that most of the plane's occupants had escaped death.
LEO GORE, 33, the rescued passenger of Teaneck, N. J., suffered minor burns.
"It seemed most everybody got out," GORE said.
"The plane seemed to be 10 or 15 feet off the ground when something happened. Maybe the engine caught fire."
At 12:48 a.m. visibility at the airport was one and one-half miles, with the ceiling partially obscured.
A police report said one person was believed dead, 13 injured and four missing.
The report added, however, that the missing persons may have crawled from the wreckage into nearby bushes.
Queens General Hospital, near the crash scene, reported at 2:20 a.m. that it had received three patients with burns.
An emergency hospital was set up in a Port Authority garage and by 2:30 a.m. 12 persons had been brought there for treatment. Most suffered burns of the face and hands.
GORE, the first survivor to be accounted for, praised a steward for great presence of mind after the crash.
"Flames were shooting upward and the doorway was just a mass of flames," GORE said. "The heat was terrific, but the steward just leaped through the flames.
"If it weren't for him, nobody would have had the nerve to jump out of the plane."
The name of the steward was not available.
GORE said the plane originally had been scheduled to take off at 11:45 p.m. but had delayed its departure because of heavy fog. It went back to the runway when the fog lifted, he said.
GORE identified himself as vice president of a brassiere company and said he had been going to Puerto Rico on business.
Another passenger, REINALDO BETANCOURT, 38, of Piedras, P. R., said the plane seemed about 20 feet off the ground when it suddenly lost altitude.
"It did not hit the ground very hard and it stayed on its wheels," BETANCOURT said. "But then one of the motors on the right burst into flames."
He joined GORE in praising the steward who led the escape. The plane, he said, had been on the runway for 15 minutes before takeoff "and then they decided to try it."

The Troy Record New York 1953-10-19