Seattle, WA Pleasure Plane Catches Fire and Kills 5, Mar 1940

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Four Children Perish With Woman Flier As Pleasure Plane Falls Ablaze in Seattle

SEATTLE, Wash., March 31 — A plane hurtled 180 miles an hour into a sawdust pile here today and the woman pilot and four children passengers
died in the flaming craft, turning a gay sight-seeing trip into tragedy.

The dead were Miss Cora Sterling, Washington's first woman transport pilot; Janet, 8, and Charleen, 4, daughters of Jack Taylor, King County (Seattle) Commissioner; and James, 10, and Allen, 14, sons of Charles Taylor of Seattle and nephews of the Commissioner.

The sight-seeing tour had been arranged for the children by former Commissioner John C. Stevenson, one-time candidate for Governor, who owned the single-motored four-passenger ship.

The plane, which had been in the air only fifteen minutes, was flying at about 500 feet when suddenly it side-slipped while making a vertical bank, and crashed full speed into a lumber company yard near Boeing Field.

Witnesses differed as to whether the plane caught fire in the air, backfired, or plunged to earth with its motor on. As it struck, the gasoline tank exploded and attempts at rescue were thwarted by the flames. The ship was reduced to ashes and twisted metal.

Mr. Stevenson, who was watching the flight from the field after having taken the craft up himself twice earlier in the day, collapsed.

Claude Thompson, operator of the Boeing Field control tower, said the ship had made a graceful arc as though the pilot intended to return to the field. He described the crash as a continuance of the arc and expressed belief that Miss Sterling had been unable to level off for a landing.

Miss Sterling, a former secretary to Mr. Stevenson, obtained her license several years ago. She was described by acquaintances as an excellent pilot who flew regularly.

Last year she was elected president of the Associated Women Pilots of the Northwest.

April 1, 1940 edition of "The New York Times"