Utica, NY Plane Crash Kills Thirteen, Sep 1950




Federal investigators today began sifting through the wreckage of a Robinson Airlines DC-3 plane that crashed and burst into flame after taking off from the new Oneida County Airport near Utica yesterday afternoon, bringing death to 13 and injury to 10. It was central New York's worst air crash.
The big twin engined "Air Chief Onondaga" left the field on a scheduled flight to Newark, N. J., at 3:08 P. M. and two minutes later was a flaming pyre.
Majority of those aboard were holiday travelers.
The crash claimed the lives of five members of a Baltimore, Md., family homeward bound after vacation. These included SEYMOUR EPSTEIN and his wife, JEANNE, their two sons, WARREN and BERTRAM, and their daughter, BETSIE.
The pilot, Capt. HAROLD CARTER, 28, of Freeville, near Ithaca; Co-pilot, FRANK A. LLEWELLYN, JR., 24, of Ithaca and MERWIN W. KINDIG, JR., 24, also of Ithaca, flight agent and steward, were killed.
Other dead in the crash were:
JOSEPH E. McGRATH, 30, Paterson, N. J.
Sgt. CHARLES JONES, 31, Oriskany.
MRS. ALICE HORNER, Freeport, L. I.
C. SHEARD PARKER, 45, Baldwin, L. I.
MRS. EVA ANDERSON, 53, Brooklyn.
The Injured:
Seaman THOMAS OCHAR, 21, Little Falls, condition critical.
PHILLIP J. LaSALLE, Yonkers, condition critical.
JOSEPH POPPER, 66, New York City, condition fair.
Seaman EDWARD THOMAS, 21, Lee Center, condition fair.
Seaman ROBERT OTT, 19, Coldbrook, condition fair.
Cpl. C. B. CIRCLE, 28, Rome, condition serious.
Lt. ROBERT ROBBINS, 26, Utica, condition fair.
MRS. MARIE MERCER, 40, New York City, condition serious.
Pvt. RICHARD HORTH, 20, Clayville, condition good.
Army Recruit J. R. HOFF, JR., Clinton, minor burns.
Preliminary reports indicated a piston on the port engine blew seconds after the big ship became airborne. The plane was too low to return to the field.
Pilot CARTER, witnesses said, apparently used all the skill at his command in an attempt to get the lines down in an emergency landing.
Flying under power of one engine and with the disabled engine belching flame and smoke, he was unable to gain altitude and the plane began to settle earthward.
The plane appeared to be "wobbling," CHARLES JOHNSON, 24, of 21 Waterside Parke, Drake Hill, said.
He was working in the yard of a relative's farm home when he saw the plane, 100 feet above him, with a dead engine. A few seconds later it had crashed.
JOHNSTON and a cousin, ROBERT HESLER, 22, raced to the wreckage.
"Passengers were climbing through the escape hatch. The plane was a raging inferno. It was too hot to get close," he said.
JOHNSTON said there was no screaming or hysteria.
"It seemed," he said, "as if everyone was in a trance. One soldier collapsed but we got him going again. He kept saying 'my head, my head.'"
JOHNSTON and HESLER said they helped "five or six" persons to the country road nearby.
RAY JADWIZYE, on whose farm the plane crashed, flagged cars to take the injured to hospitals. JADWIZYE said he heard a "thumping and clanging" and looked up in time to see the ship crash.
The plane struck treetops and crashed in a cleared field about 1,000 feet from where it first hit the trees. The left wing and engine were sheared from the fuselage.
Four persons were thrown from the plane as it hit the ground. Three were able to walk. The fourth, Co-pilot LLEWELLYN, was pinned beneath the right engine nacelle. He died several hours later in St. Elizabeth Hospital, Utica.
The wreckage was scattered over a wide area and charred luggage and personal effects were strewn about the field. Only the tail section and the right wing and engine were not burned.
The fire house at nearby Westmoreland was turned into a temporary morgue and the bodies were taken there where state police and volunteer firemen working under direction of Coroner PRESTON CLARK, toiled to establish identification.
MRS. ALICE HOERNER was identified through jewelry by her sister-in-law, MRS. ALICE M. GRAHAM of Oriskany. PARKER was identified by a wallet found in his clothing. A letter gave clue to the identity of McGRATH.
CHARLES JONES, of Oriskany, collapsed after being shown a body believed that of his son. He was unable to make identification at the time.
A witness to the crash was JAY R. HOFF, who went to the airport to see his son, Army Recruit JAY R. HOFF, JR., board the plane for a return trip to Fort Dix, N. J. The son, escaped with minor burns.
The Rev. JUSTIN GRABOWSKI of St. George's Catholic Church at Utica was driving in the area when the ship fell. Father GRABOWSKI said he heard the crash, saw a puff of smoke and sped to the scene.
"I gave absolution in the field," Father GRABOWSKI said, adding he saw Copilot LLEWELLYN pinned beneath the engine nacelle.
"He was horribly burned and mangled," the priest continued. "I annointed him and gave him the last rites."
State Police at the scene worked under the direction of Inspector EDWARD J. DOUGHERTY. Road blocks were established as word of the crash spread and people drove to the scene by the hundreds.
A Civilian Aeronautics Board official arrived at the field from New York within two hours after the crash. State Police joined the CAB official in launching the probe.
The new Oneida County Airport was opened last Wednesday and Robinson Airlines on that day, inaugurated regular scheduled flights to Neward, N. J.
Yesterday's tragedy was FLight 32. Robinson headquarters are at Ithaca and this was the first accident involving a fatality since it started business in 1945.
Capt. CARTER was a native of Hope, Ind., attended Purdue University and served as a pilot with the Navy until 1946, when he went with Pan American World Airways as an instructor pilot before signing up with Robinson. He is survived by his wife, MRS. HELEN CARTER, and two children.
Co-Pilot LLEWELLYN resided at 109 Valentine pl., Ithaca. He is survived by his wife, PHYLLIS, and a son. He went to Ithaca from Chestnut Hill, Mass.
He held the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. During World War II he served five years with the Air Force and after discharge flew with Eastern Air Lines and TWA before going with Robinson in December of 1949.
KINDIG joined Robinson two months ago. He was educated at Cleveland, O., and Western Reserve University. He received an AB degree from Cornell University last February. He, too, was a veteran of World War II.

Syracuse Herald Journal New York 1950-09-05


Survivor Richard Horth

Richard Horth was my uncle who somehow survived this horrible crash with no injuries- pretty much a miracle. He died back in 2003 but always told the family over the years that his knowledge as a aircraft mechanic made him go to the rear seat of the plane for best survival chances. The nightmares and guilt feelings of not being able to help more people than he did, haunted him to the day he died. The flames and heat were just too intense to save anyone in the remaining parts of the aircraft.

I was there

I was 10 years old was at the Oneida County air port with my dad and saw the plane crash. My father ran to the car and I followed him he did not know I was with him. My aunt Alice Horner was on the aircraft and her boy friend Mr. Parker also my next door neighbor Mr. Jones was killed. I walked through the crash site calling for my aunt, the horror I saw that day is with me and I can close my eyes and see it.