Somerset, PA Private Plane Crash, Jun 1957


Somerset, Pa. (UP) - A New Castle, Pa., family of four was wiped out Sunday when their light plane slammed into a fog-shrouded ridge of the Allegheny Mountains near here.
Authorities said ROBERT FIELDS LONG, 26, telephone company worker and son of a prominent Lawrence County attorney with only 34 hours solo time to his credit, apparently became confused in the fog while flying home from Martinsburg, W. Va., on the last leg of a flight from Winter Haven, Fla.
Also killed in the crash were LONG'S wife, JESSIE JOAN, and their children, JEFFREY, 4, and ROBERT, JR., 18 months.
The plane, a single-engine Stinson Voyager station wagon, clipped a dead tree on isolated Albright Ridge and then virtually disintegrated as it cut a swath through a heavy forest.
Coroner Robert H. Halverson said the bodies of the victims had been "dismembered and mutilated almost beyond recognition" and were strewn along the mountainside.
The search for the LONG family began when Cletus Suttmiller, New Baltimore, notified state police he had heard a crash at about 8:10 a.m.
National Guard and private planes from Somerset and Bedford airports flew over the area but were hampered by low hanging clouds and fog. The swath cut in the forest was spotted by a pilot when visibility improved.
A rescue group of state police and 30 volunteers, headed by Sgt. James A. Blair of the Somerset state police barracks, struggled for six hours through the mountainous forests before reaching the wreckage and bring the bodies out.
Blair said the plane apparently struck the ridge at a 45-degree angle. It was strewn over a wide area but had not burned.
The Longs left New Castle last May 25 to vacation at Winter Haven.
The family spent Saturday night at Martinsburg because Long was wary of weather conditions over southern Pennsylvania. They left the West Virginia airfield about 7 a.m. and planned to arrive at New Castle at about 9 a.m. Sunday.
Long's flight plan called for him to reach New Castle by way of Somerset and Leechburg. The spot where the plane crashed in Allegheny Township of Somerset County was a few miles northeast of the proposed flight plan.
Long, son of Lawrence County Asst. Dist. Atty. Wilbert Long, was a member of a flying club at New Castle and was understood to have been taking instruction for a commercial pilot's license. He was a telephone installer.
Richard Skillman, Butler, aeronautics investigator for the state police, was scheduled to begin a formal inquiry into the crash today.

Simpson's Leader-Times Kittanning Pennsylvania 1957-06-03