Lovettsville, VA Air Disaster, Aug 1940
25 Killed When Passenger Plane Crashes
Senator Lundeen of Minnesota Is One of Air Tragedy Victims.
Several Government Officials Lose Lives in Worst Airplane Accident U. S. Has Even Seen; Probe Is On.
LOVETTSVILLE, Va. -- U. S. Sen. ERNEST LUNDEEN of Minnesota and 24 other passengers were killed Saturday when a shiny new Pennsylvania Central Airlines transport crashed and exploded during a severe thunderstorm.
Some witnesses reported having seen indications of fire aboard the plane before it hit into a muddy field and burst into countless pieces.
Several agreed that the impact brot[sic] an explosion and a burst of flame that lighted up the cloud-darkened countryside. Part of one body was hurled 2,000 feet from the wreckage.
It was the worst airplane accident in this country's experience, the next worst one having killed 19 persons.
It ended a no-fatality record by domestic airlines that lasted one year, five months and five days. It was the first fatal accident in PCA's 13 years of operation.
Loaded To Capacity.
The plane was loaded to capacity with passengers from Washington, D. C. It was bound for Pittsburgh, Akron, Cleveland and Detroit.
In addition to Senator LUNDEEN a farmer-laborite who was one of the senate's most vigorous and outspoken members, there were many other government officers aboard. The included WILLIAM GARBOSE, an attorney in justice department's criminal division; JOSEPH J. PESCI, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; MISS MARGARET TURNER, a secretary in the FBI; and two internal revenue bureau men.
Federal investigators, headed personally by Chairman HARLLEE BRANCH of the Civil Aeronautics Board, speeded here from Washington, only about 50 miles away.
The plane left Washington at 2:18 p. m. EST. In little more than half an hour it crashed on a gentle knoll in an alfalfa patch on the farm of WALTER BISHOP. The members of the BISHOP family gave a graphic description of what they heard and saw during the seconds preceding the crash.
"Road and Flash"
"My husband was out on the front porch with the children watching the storm," MRS. CLARENCE BISHOP said. "All of a sudden there was a roar and a big crash, which lighted up the whole inside of the house with a bright flash. My husband pushed the children inside because we thot[sic] something was going to hit us. I never saw the plane."
CLARENCE BISHOP said he thot[sic] the pilot might have seen Short Hill mountain up ahead of him and gunned the motors to circle and get over it.
ERNEST GRAHAM, who with other threshers had taken refuge beside their machine during the storm, reported the mysterious evidence of fire preceding the crash. He was about half a mile from the point of crash.
"As the plane swooped down over us we saw a piece of paper coming down and it was on fire," GRAHAM said. "The rain was fierce then an it was out before it hit the ground."
GRAHAM retrieved the charred paper and found it was a partially burned Pennsylvania Central Airlines form, carrying at the top in small letters "Form of PCA No. 252." Beneath this heading was "Pennsylvania Central Air Line Corp., Allegheny county Airport, Pittsburgh." The remainder of the form was not legible.