• Capital Airliner Crash of 1947


    Prologue
    Before there was a much development on our Mountain, tragedy struck atop the Blue Ridge.

    On Friday, June 13, 1947 the second worst commercial airline crash (at that time) occurred just below the crest of the mountain on its western slope. Bad weather contributed to the tragedy as the plane pancaked into cliffs at full throttle.


    This WAS big news. The account made the front page of The New York Times. The Forty-seven passengers and 3 crew members all died instantly. The plane’s impact showed no signs of any evasive measures being taken, a faulty altimeter being the suspected cause. The crash was so intense that six bodies could not be identified and two were never recovered.

    We’ve published this account in an effort to honor the memories of the dead and give as best a description of the events as the news articles of the time allow. If anyone who knows more about the tragedy would like to add to this story, please contact us.

    The tale is told in two parts, the first by newspaper accounts and the second by the employees of the airline company who sought out the site of the wreckage nearly 60 years later. As a youngster, I recall visiting the site of the crash about 12 years after the fact. It’s been a privilege to find out some of the details, albeit so much later.

    The Tragedy



    On Friday, the 13th, in June of 1947, an airliner crash

    involving the second largest loss of life at that time

    occurred atop the Blue Ridge Mountain directly above

    what would in 10 years, become the Shannondale

    Subdivision. 50 passengers and crew members

    pancaked into a cliff face just a few hundred feet from

    the summit. The story by way of newspaper accounts

    and stories of former members of the airliner company

    is recounted below...


    Introduction
    Note: Some thumbnail photos in the article can be enlarged by clicking

    On the evening of Friday the 13th of June, 1947, there was an Airliner crash of epic proportions. At the time it was the second largest loss of life in a commercial passenger flight in the United States. We have accounts from two newspapers which reported the event, a local publication and the New York Times. They seem to have covered most of the story from a news perspective.


    We are also fortunate to have an account of a trek by formers members of the airline company, Capital, over 50 years after the incident. That story adds a lot more from a personal viewpoint. What we are missing are the stories about the crew and passengers, their families and the searchers who dealt with the tragedy in those days following impact. We respectfully ask that if you are privy such information, that you share by contacting our website.


    From the perspective of today, it's difficult to imagine a DC-4 Stratoliner like This One






    crashing anywhere near the Washington area and remaining hidden for nearly a full day. In 1947 the countryside was as the papers report, rugged and in some cases nearly inaccessible. And the technology that tracks aircraft was in its infancy, just 2 years after WWII. The Blue Ridge Mountain was a virtual wilderness 55 miles from the Nation's Capitol.

    One aspect from a historical perspective is unfortunate. The news agencies involved didn’t opt to publish photos. In today’s world of 24/7 news, there would be video footage spread across the Internet. However, from the view of the victims’ families and friends, it’s likely a blessing. The written accounts are more than adequate to convey the extent of the tragedy.


    News Accounts


    From the Martinsburg Journal-6/14/2008

    Local Officials Called In Hunt For Airliner


    Airport, Police Kept Busy Last Night Trying To Help Spot Lost Plane


    Last Word From Plane Had Been From Martinsburg

    The possibility that the airplane wreck east of the Shenandoah River was on West Virginia territory was revived this afternoon when State Police here were directed to go to the scene. Press dispatches have indicated it was along the West Virginia-Virginia line on the mountain.
    The State Police from here radioed back to the local station this afternoon that the plane had fallen about 100 Yards from the line and on West Virginia land.
    Local airport and police officials were kept busy throughout the past night after being alerted to help in the search for the Capital Airlines DC-4 plane which crashed near Hillsboro, Va., early last night but was not found until about 8 o'clock this morning,
    The local officials were alerted because the last word from the plane had been its routine report to Washington that it had passed just south of Martinsburg at an altitude of 5,000 feet with Washington only 20 minutes flying time away.
    State Police of the, local detachment searched over the mountain area and apparently came within a short distance of where the plane had ploughed into the top of a mountain but at that time they had no way of learning the whereabouts of the wreckage.
    Planes from both Municipal Airport and North-end Airport joined in the search this morning but were hampered by bad weather.
    The wreckage was finally located by James Franklin, of Washington, PCAmaintenance official, from a chartered plane which flew here and simulated what would have been normal flying practice for the airliner. He picked up the path shortly before dawn and flew somewhat lower than would be routine. Dispatches from Leesburg Va., today said he spotted the wreckage from the air and saw no sign of life.
    It had not been reached by rescue parties at a late hour this morning although it was believed without doubt all 50 aboard were dead. The scene of the crash is close to the West Virginia-Virginia border and may, possibly be within West Virginia.
    Mrs. Russell Bergen, chairman of the Berkely County Chapter, American Red Cross, reported that the local Chapter was alerted at 3 o’clock this morning with motor, canteen, first aid corps and the Gray Ladies called to stand by for work at the scene of the crash
    Three Red Cross executives were aboard the ill-rated four-motored ship, Mrs. Bergen and G.F. Whitmore had attended the Red Cross convention with them In Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday. City police reported they were swamped throughout the night with long distance telephone calls from airlines, news agencies and newspapers including United Press, Associated Press, International News Service, New York News, and the British agency, Reuters.
    Volunteers from the Harpers Ferry section joined in the search last night and this morning with Journal's correspondent there reporting that the plane was very close to the West Virginia-Virginia line and in a most inaccessible spot. It could not be reached by auto with searchers on foot travelling part of the way over the Appalachian Trail

    New York Times-6/14/1947

    Airliner is lost with 50 on board in Mountain Area
    Searchers press for hunt in Blue Ridge country for plane from Chicago to
    WashingtonFog and Rain Slow Them
    By telephone to the New York Times


    LEESBURG, Va., Saturday, June 14—
    Search parties were scouring a three-state area early this morning for a Capital Airlines DC-4 plane which has been missing since 6:13 o'clock, Eastern Standard Time, last night on a flight from Chicago to Washington.
    The plane, carrying forty-seven passengers and a crew of three, left Chicago at 1:45 P. M., EST, yesterday and was due in Washington at 6:35 P. M. It was last heard from when it passed near Martinsburg, W. Va., sixty-five miles away.
    The Sheriff's office here reported at 4 A. M., daylight saving time, that the search was being concentrated in the area between Hillsboro and Purcellville, nine miles from here. A message received earlier said the plane had crashed at that point, and a spokesman for the Sheriff said that, while no trace of the plane had been found, it was still possible that it had come down there.

    Search Planes Stand Ready

    The search is being carried on through fog and rain that has swept the Blue Ridge Mountain country here since late yesterday afternoon. The area embraces the Panhandle of West Virginia, western Maryland and northern Virginia. At daybreak today three private planes were to take off from here to aid the searchers afoot and in automobiles.
    The plane picked up passengers in Cleveland at 4:10 P. M., Eastern Standard Time, and again in Pittsburgh at 5:08 P. M., before starting on its final leg to Washington.
    While the search was going on near here, the Maryland State Police at Brunswick were working on a report that the plane had come down seventeen miles south of the police barracks, which also would put the scene of the reported crash near Hillsboro.
    Earlier, it was reported that the plane was down Harpers Ferry, W. Va., and Hillsboro, but a search of this area was unsuccessful. Searchers also went out on another report, from a rural mail carrier in the Bluemont, Va., area, that he had seen a plane in trouble, its engines misfiring, near the town. The plane later disappeared from the area.

    Hunt Pushed in Wide Area

    The search began soon after the plane failed to arrive on schedule at Washington and enlisted every state, county and city police department in the wide area. Officials of the airline, by charting the ship's normal course, determined that it had vanished on a direct line from Martinsburg to Washington, and thus was headed almost directly for Leesburg.
    When it failed to pass over Leesburg, the searchers backtracked through the mountains, traveling by foot and car over little-used roads in a region noted for its rocky promontories.
    Among the early searchers was Sheriff John Alexander of this town, who led a party of his men through many miles of Loudoun County. He concentrated many of his staff near Round Hill, Va., close to the Virginia-West Virginia border, after a resident had reported
    seeing a reflection in the sky as if from a fire.

    Gave Altitude as 5,000 Feet

    Authorities said late last night that the plane's pilot, Capt. Horace Stark of Washington, had given his altitude at 5,000 feet when he made his last report near Martinsburg. An airline official said the highest peak in the Leesburg area is about 2,000 feet.
    The plane's co-pilot is R. N. Creekmore of Washington and the hostess is Miss Peggy Walls, also of Washington.
    Captain Stark is a veteran pilot, who started his flying career twenty-six years ago. He is married and has more than 14,000 hours in the air, officials of the company said.
    Mr. Creekmore is 28 years old, married and the father of two children. A native of Texas, he joined the airline after previous service with the Air Transport Command.
    Miss Walls is 23. She was graduated from Alabama College and has been with the company for three years..
    The Blue Ridge area is about 100 miles from Port Deposit, Md.,scene of the worst air crash in thehistory of commercial aviation inthe United States. This crash, also involving a DC-4 plane, occurred on May 30 and took the lives of fifty-three crew members and passengers.
    The previous day a United Airlines DC-4 crashed at La Guardia Field in New York with a loss of forty-two lives
    New York Times-6/15/1947

    Searchers report

    Guided to Isolated Spot in West Virginia by Signaling Plane


    Airliner Badly Smashed


    Scattered over 100-yard Area


    Crash Is Third Major Air Accident in Two Weeks




    LEESBURG, Va., June 15

    A search party located the wreckage today of a, four-motored DC-4 transport which crashed and burned on a West Virginia mountain top last night, killing all of the fifty persons aboard. The DC-4 was operated by the Pennsylvania Central Airlines, Inc., which is known by its unofficial name of Capital Airlines.
    This second most disastrous airline accident in the history of domestic air transport service occurred about seven miles south of Charles Town, W. Va., and fifteen miles west of Leesburg, where headquarters were set up for searching expeditions. It followed by just two weeks the airlines' worst accident when an Eastern Air Lines plane of the same type carried fifty-three persons to death near Port Deposit, Md.
    While a company official sighted the wreckage of the DCA from the air early this morning, first ground contact was not made for more than five hours. A party, including airline and Red Cross officials reached the scene of devastation about 1 P. M., after a difficult climb through dense woods and underbrush.




    Wreckage Strewn Over 100 Yards

    Gordon O. Stone, of the American Red Cross, in Washington, who was with this party, reported that parts of the plane and bodies of the victims were strewn across a 100-yard stretch near the top of a 1,500 foot mountain in the Blue Ridge range. Dividing Virginia and West Virginia, this spur of mountains was the last land obstacle on the big transport's flight from Pittsburgh to Washington.

    Other witnesses who reached the scene later reported that fifteen bodies were easily identifiable, while others were so charred and mangled that identification would be difficult.

    Although the undergrowth and the trees were water-soaked the plane burned a wide swath in the verdant ridge.

    The crash took place about 100 yards down the western slope of the ridge along which runs the famous Appalachian Trail used by the Indians and early settlers and now one of the best known hiking courses in the country. The decline, very precipitous, made reaching the scene extremely' difficult.

    Trow Sebree of Capital Air Lines, who was in the search party that made the first contact with the plane, said that a number of the bodies had been thrown forward some fifty or 100 feet and were readily identifiable.

    Among them was the body of an infant, found 100 feet ahead of the plane, identified as Judith Christine Bryan, ten months old, whose mother, Mrs. Martha Bryan of Indianapolis and Norfolk, was also on the plane.

    Mr. Stone said the party found the wreckage a mile and a half from a mountain road. But searchers starting out from another side of the mountain had to abandon their jeep and climb through more than four miles of tortuous undergrowth in their attempt to find the site of the crash.

    He said he did not think the passengers or the crew had any indications of what was going to happen, as the plane seemed to have struck the mountainside while flying on a level course.

    "I don't think the passengers even knew that anything did happen as apparently they were killed instantly," he said.

    To reach the plane from the Appalachian Trail, Mr. Stone said, the searchers had to beat their way through thick brush and briars. They also had to descend rocky ledges.

    The bodies, according to Mr. Stone, were all fairly close to the plane, some of them slightly forward of it. The nose had been sheared off, indicating that they might have been thrown through it.

    A bulldozer and road construction crews were summoned from Charles Town, to clear a path to the scene of disaster so that bodies of the victims could be brought out before tomorrow.

    A Red Cross mobile unit was established at the nearest possible point, at first in the almost forlorn hope of giving aid to any survivors. It stayed to carry out the sadder mission of bringing the bodies to Leesburg in ambulances and other conveyances.

    L. W. Wallace Jr. of Winchester, Va., led a crew of volunteer stretcher-bearers with the first seven bodies to be removed from the wreckage. The body of the baby was among the group, which was taken about 7:30 P.M, EST, to an ambulance waiting on a mountain road near Round Hill, Va.

    Mr. Wallace said that members of Company I of the 119th Infantry of the Virginia National Guard were now guarding the crash scene from curiosity-seekers who might take pieces of evidence vital to the investigation of the cause of the disaster.


    Temporary Morgue Set Up


    A temporary morgue was set up at the cemetery chapel here to receive the bodies and Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents stood by to help in the work of identification.
    Quinn Tann, chief of the FBI identification division, was in charge of an identification unit. He said that the unit had brought fingerprint records of persons having the same names as the passengers. If unable to make complete identification by that method, he planned to use all other available techniques, including dental formations, laundry marks, and the like.

    Civil Aeronautics Board inspectors and State Police were among the first to move in after definite establishment of the plane's location. Extreme precautions were taken to prevent repetition of the experience at the recent Fort Deposit crash where souvenir hunters took parts of the plane. Many of those parts were considered highly important to the CAB's investigation of the cause of the crash.

    The plane, carrying forty-seven passengers, was en route from Pittsburgh to Washington in a heavy rain. It reported for the last time over Martinsburg, W. Va., at 7:15 P. M. When it became overdue at the National Airport in Washington, James Franklin, the airline's director of maintenance and engineering, drove to Winchester, Va. This morning early he engaged a light airplane there and scouted the transport's route, until he spotted the wreckage.

    He sighted it above him through the overcast as he flew below through a valley between two ranges.

    Landing, Mr. Franklin then drove as close as possible to the scene. With Mr. Stone and J. H. Carmichael, executive vice president of the airline, he set out in a jeep from Hillsboro, Va. At the same time the State Police of Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, local law enforcement officials and volunteer firemen formed other search parties to scour the area on foot and in jeeps and automobiles.

    Several reports that the plane had been sighted reached Leesburg before Mr. Stone returned to confirm the location definitely. He left Messrs. Carmichael and Franklin at the scene.

    He reported that they had been forced to abandon the jeep four miles from the crash scene. A light plane, unidentified, circled over them at that time and indicated that it wished them to follow it. When it reached a position which later turned out to be the crash scene, it dipped its wings and then returned to circle over the search party. The searchers walked four miles through rugged country before locating the wreckage. That took them several hours, Mr. Stone said.

    The overcast enveloped the scene, limiting visibility to a short distance and handicapping the efforts of the various search parties.

    The passengers included Dr. Courtney Smith, National Medical Director of the American Red Cross, and David P. Godwin, National Fire Control Chief of the United States Forestry Service, both of Washington.

    Also aboard were two motion-picture executives, C. E. Peppiatt, a division manager, and Samuel Gross, a district manager of Twentieth Century-Fox, Philadelphia.

    The pilot, Capt. Horace Stark, age 46, of Arlington, Va., had been flying commercial planes for twenty-six years. He was a veteran of more than 14,000 hours in the air and was also recognized as an inventor of aircraft devices.

    The co-pilot, R. N. Creekmore, age 28, also of Arlington, Va.. was an Army Air Transport Command flier in the recent war.

    The third member of the crew was Miss Margaret Walls, age 23, also of Arlington.

    The crash occurred about ten miles from the scene of the airline's first crash in its history. That was near Lovettsville. Va., on Aug. 31, 1940. A DC-3 plane carried twenty-three passengers to their death in that accident. Senator Ernest Lundeen, Farm-Laborite of Minnesota, was among them.

    The Capital Airline's only other accident involving passenger fatalities occurred in 1945.

    Airline officials stated that they knew of no reason for the accident and were unable to give even a hint as to the possible cause.

    It was stated, however, that the altimeter used on commercial planes is of the type registering the altitude above sea level rather than above the ground and it was conjectured unofficially that if the pilot were off his course, he might have struck a mountain higher than he would have anticipated in his normal path.

    The giant Skymaster was the third plane of its type to figure in disastrous accidents within two weeks. The Maryland accident on May 30 occurred the day after a DC-4 (commercial version of the Army's C54) crash at La Guardia Airport in New York City, in which forty-three lives were lost.



    New York Times-6-15-1947(article#2)

    Grim Scene of Disaster Greets Searching Crews
    by the Associated Press

    Red Cross camp, Va., June 14
    The Capital airliner that crashed on a Blue Ridge mountainside last night hit with such force and burned so fiercely that the bodies of many of the fifty victims may never be fully identified. The big plane slashed a swath through trees and then smashed itself and its human cargo to bits on a granite out-cropping.
    A grim scene greets the searcher breaking his way through undergrowth so thick that nothing is visible until he steps out of the brush into the little clearing created by the fire from the crash itself.
    Dominating the setting is the great tail section of the DC-4 plane, charred but still upright. A little way ahead lies the burned main body of the plane, with most of the passengers in or near the wreckage. Scattered on both sides lie the possessions they kept closest to them in their last flight—brief cases, women's handbags, notebooks, a few items of clothing, mostly charred.
    Still farther ahead, up the mountainside, lie four or five bodies which were thrown clear. They are among the least mutilated.
    The body of a 10-month-old baby, Judith Christine Bryan, was among the first found. That of her mother, Mrs. Martha Helen Bryan of Indianapolis, Ind., and Norfolk, Va., was not immediately identified.
    Dr. Ludwig Lederer, airline physician, one of the earliest arrivals at the scene, estimated that "about twenty" of the bodies had escaped the fire and the tearing force of the crash to such an extent that they could be readily identified. He said about five were so charred he doubted that they could ever be named. Other workers' estimates of the number mutilated beyond recognition ran higher.
    The crash scene itself is so isolated and so rough that searching crews said a three-mile carry by stretcher-bearers on foot might be necessary to bring the bodies out.
    First arrivals reached the spot by climbing up the mountain which the plane hit near its crest. That route, however, is so rugged that rescue crews are considering a plan to carry the bodies to the top of the ridge, 300 or 400 yards away, and then carry them on foot or by horse another two and a half to three miles down the Georgia- to-Maine Appalachian trail for hikers which runs along the crest
    At the end of that carry, jeeps can meet the bearers and take over their grim burdens. Not even the nimble wartime vehicles can traverse the last two and a half to three miles even on the trail.
    The shorter uphill route is perhaps less than two miles from a point that can be reached by jeep from this rescue headquarters set up by the Red Cross. But the first half to three-quarters of a mile is marshland and the rest is an uphill grind through dense brush, and over ravines, with no vestige of trail.
    The whole rescue operation has been severely hampered by steady rain that has soaked searchers and made the rough footing still more treacherous. Crewmen said it must have been raining heavily when the big ship smashed into the mountain. The immediate area is burned clear by fire from the broken fuel tanks, but the blaze did not spread over much of the mountainside, indicating that the trees and brush were wet.
    The charred clearing is visible from a mile or so away on the other side of a valley, but is lost to sight as soon as searchers, heading toward it, drop below the line of the dense growth surrounding it. The granite outcrop on which the airliner disintegrated is the only one seen for miles around.







    A Common Grave in Union Cemetery in Leesburg, VA, today held the bodies of eight unidentified dead from Friday's plane crash. Mass burial had been ordered by health authorities, after the F.B.I., Red Cross, and Pennsylvania Airline (Capital), operators of the sky liner, had exhausted every means available to establish the identities of the mutilated corpses.

    The services were conducted Monday afternoon by the Rev. Michael F. Igoe, rector of St James Roman Catholic Church; the Rev. Ira Hudgins, pastor of the Leesburg Baptist Church; the T. Robert Fulton, pastor of the Leesburg Presbyterian Church and the Rev. J Manley Cobb, rector of St James Episcopal Church. Of the 50 persons aboard the plane, 48 were accounted for. Two bodies were believed to have been incinerated.(AP Photo)
    Flight 410, N88842, PCA, from Pittsburgh to Washington

    PLANE PASSENGER/CREW LIST.
    Washington, June 14 (AP)

    A list of persons aboard an airliner which crashed in (West) Virginia on a flight from Chicago to Washington, as given out by Capital Airlines and checked at various boarding points:
    Boarded at Pittsburgh and headed for Washington:
    CECIL L. EATON, 55, Pittsburgh, chief engineer American Associated Consultants.
    J. M. McINTOSH, JR., 29, former Navy lieutenant, graduated Pittsburgh University last Wednesday, Pittsburgh.
    CHARLES HAZLETT McAFFERTY, 2704 Allison street, Mt. Rainier, Md.
    MISS MARY J. ALTMAN, Uniontown, Pa.
    WILLIAM M. WATSON, 34, Wilkinsburg, Pa., manager of WARREN-EHRET Roofing Co., Philadelphia, home in Gastonia, N. C.
    ALBERT J. McCARTHY, 21, Pittsburgh, student in watch-repairing school, and his wife, MRS. ANNA MARIE McCARTHY, also 21.
    MR. and MRS. JOHN R. DEWAR, Ambridge, Pa.
    MISS ANNA JANE GOODWIN, Pittsburgh.
    PERCY JOHN NESS, Washington, D. C.
    N. COX.
    _______ FOX.
    MISS CRAMER, Wooster, Ohio.MRS. PRICE, Akron, Ohio.
    ______ TERRY.
    CHEVALIER A. LUDLOW, 407 Kansas street, Pittsburg, Kans.
    C. E. PEPPIATT, Philadelphia, eastern division sales manager for 20th Century Fox films.
    SAM GROSS, Philadelphia, area division manager for 20th Century Fox.
    WALTER D. HODSON, 77, Chicago, president of HODSON Corp., Pittsburgh.
    Boarded in Pittsburgh and headed for Norfolk:
    MISS MARJORIE SOUTHERLAND, possibly of Norfolk, Va.
    MRS. MARY BRYAN and 10-months-old baby, Indianapolis.
    MRS. KATHERINE WEBSTER, about 34, Pittsburgh, wife of LOGAN A. WEBSTER, U. S. probation officer.
    MISS MARY SAGUN, 33, Norfolk, Va., Navy Yard employe.
    Boarded in Cleveland and headed for Washington:
    DR. COURTNEY SMITH, Silver Spring, Md., national medical director of the American Red Cross.
    _______ GEORGER, Cleveland.
    ARTHUR POLLARD, Cleveland.
    MISS ROBENA McLEAN, Raleigh, N. C.
    MISS DOROTHY ANN HOSFORD, 18, of Cleveland.
    MISS MINNIE HARMAN, Brentwood, Md., a Red Cross worker since 1913.
    ALLEN COE, Toledo, Ohio.
    I. E. GOLDBERG, Milwaukee, AFL attorney.
    Boarded in Cleveland and headed for Norfolk:
    EDWARD C. DAOUST, 59, Cleveland attorney and president of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
    DR. and MRS. JOSEPH H. MARKO, newlyweds from Cleveland.
    MISS MARGARET J. SMOLENY, 43, Cleveland, auditor for the Ohio Sign, Co.
    Boarded in Chicago and headed for Washington:
    _______ OLERY, Seattle.
    MISS D. PETERS, Norfolk, Nebr.
    ROBERT K. GARRETSON, Seattle, Wash.
    DAVID P. GODWIN, Washington D. C., chief of fire control U. S. Forest Service.
    JULIAN KAUFMAN, 30, Chicago.
    MARGARET KUEPPERS, 17, St. Paul.
    EDMUND J. STONE, Arlington, Va., Federal Housing Authority employe.
    (HARRY C.) GROGHAN.
    Boarded in Chicago and headed for Norfolk:
    MISS VAIL, Atlantic Court Apartments, Virginia Beach, Va.
    SAMUEL SIEGEL, 62, Chicago.
    HORACE STARK, Washington, pilot.
    R. N. CREEKMORE, Washington, co-pilot.
    MARGARET WALLS, Washington, hostess.
    (with a few added details)

    "Rediscovery" in 2002-2004

    As mentioned previously, we remember hiking the trail in the late 1950’s and visiting the site of the wreck. I can recall seats still covered with some sort of material and quite a bit of debris from the wreck. Evidence in the form of burnt timber and stumps was abundant. Growing older the adventures of climbing on the landing struts and such became distant memories.
    In setting up our initial website we “rediscovered” the story from many years ago thru old newspaper archives at Shepherd University library, while looking for news articles of past events. A Google search led us to a website (now apparently off the ‘net) operated by former employees of Capital Airlines. Before it went off the air, we captured the information and present it as an almost perfect epilogue to the tragic events.

    The only things missing are the personal recollections of relatives and searchers and the durned time to find and collect the information. Consider this another plea to get in touch if you’d like to point out any errors omissions or to add any details. Geez, If only we had known you were looking, guys

    Epilogue-Part #1

    Note: Photos Follow

    CAPITAL AIRLINES ASSOCIATION

    From The August 2003 Newsletter by Bud Ruddy:



    About a year ago we (members of the CAPAIR Board of Directors,) were going through some of the memorabilia you all have donated to the Association, making tentative decisions about just where certain items should be directed for distribution and permanent display. George Paull, who just about everybody knows, handed me an old newspaper clipping we had received, commenting that it might be something of interest for the Newsletter. It wasn’t clear at that moment just who had sent the article to us but it was a story from The Star, a highly respected newspaper here in Washington which, unfortunately, is no longer in publication.
    The tattered and discolored old clipping began; Searchers cutting their way through dense growth, came upon the charred shell of a PCA-Capital Airliner on the slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains today, established that all 50 aboard were dead and began removing the bodies. The Chicago-Washington DC-4 crashed in terrain so rough that a bulldozer was ordered to clear a four-mile path to the nearest road... (emphasis added)
    Amazing as it may seem, the Flight number was not listed in the newspaper article... something that would be unthinkable today. .
    The crew was Capt. Horace Stark, Arlington, VA, Copilot R.N. Creemore, Arlington, VA and Miss Margaret Walls, Hostess, McLean Gardens in northern VA.
    The newspaper story was extensive for its time since large four engine airliners were still relatively new in airline service and the loss of 50 people in a single accident was truly significant industry news.
    For me, over a period of months, it was something of a challenge regarding how best to dig around a bit, wondering how to find any more information about this accident or even if it would be something our readers might find of significant interest. With a bit of hesitation, the informal project eventually got underway
    One of the factors that influenced the effort, in addition to my obvious interest as a pilot, was the fact that we live just outside Leesburg, VA, which is not far from the Blue Ridge Mountains, the site of the accident. There the border of VA and WV define the site where the accident was reported to have occurred. So the pursuit of a part of our history began...
    Knowing that the Appalachian Trail goes through this area along the mountain ridges, my first step seemed best directed to try and find a retired old timer within the National Park Service retirees who knew the Appalachian Trail in that area and might have some knowledge of such an accident site. Simply stated, I had no luck pursuing that tack. Since that area of the Blue Ridge is still a relatively rural part of Virginia and West Virginia, they still have the County Sheriff law officer structures in these states. I decided to go to the Loudoun County (VA) Sheriffs office, thinking they might have some records squirreled away in their archives.
    Walking into the Sheriffs office I was greeted by a cheerful and courteous female deputy who looked about the same age as one of my granddaughters! What I wanted was really ancient history to someone so young. Working my way through the office hierarchy, I finally found an older deputy who told me I might do best by calling a long retired Loudoun County Sheriff who lived out in the country and, if anyone would know, he just might have some recollection of events way back then
    The phone listing turned out to be that of his son, since his dad had long ago stopped listing his phone. With the sons help and finally reaching his dad, I began a conversation with the man who as it turns out, actually was the County Sheriff at the time of the accident and under whose jurisdiction the emergency response actions were undertaken. This gentleman had excellent recall of the events and, without any hesitation, offered the names of the state and county roads one would need to know to reach the base of the mountain closest to the vicinity of the site.
    This past winter, the weather, cold with unusually heavy and frequent snows, ruled out any attempt to relocate the actual site.
    In the intervening period I happened to call Charlie Ake (a retired DCA pilot) and, in the course of our conversation, while explaining what we were up to, learned that Charlie’s son Kyle, having an interest in such accidents, had somehow learned how to reach this site from the West Virginia side of the mountain. Kyle, sometime back, managed to reach the site and found pieces of the wreckage buried in overgrowth just below the sheer granite wall that the aircraft had impacted. Pieces were obscured but still there. Kyle, with considerable effort, managed to muscle down the mountain side a nose case section from one of the engines and has since donated it to the CAPAIR Association. (see photos in this issue) We now have it in the CAPAIR office carefully stuffed under one of Peggy’s desks!
    This past May I decided to research the local newspaper archives to see if they had any articles about the accident. The local paper does not have an especially large circulation so I did not expect too much. They sent me to the local library which was said to have whatever might be available. The small but very conscientious staff swung into action, retrieving old newspapers from that time. Going through the articles they had and zeroing in on the dates around the accident, I was astounded to see a photo of a large funeral gathering at some cemetery. There was a picture of a large open gravesite. Behind the gravesite was a large gathering of people and several Ministers conducting a mass burial service. By this time the head of the library had joined in the records search and found the names of passengers whose remains were unidentifiable and all the remains recovered were buried in this mass grave. This seemed incredulous not only had we found the names of those deceased in the accident but now knew there was a mass burial but where.
    It says it’s Union Cemetery and that is right here at the north end of Leesburg came the answer from the librarian!!
    Within minutes I left the library, copies of the old newspaper articles in hand, and headed for the cemetery. It was late in the day, nearly closing time when I got to the small maintenance building. The one man who was there, when I told him what I was trying to find, said he knew to old site at the back of the cemetery and led me to it..
    To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time since the accident we actually located such a gravesite. Although there have been occasional rumors of some gravesite, of some unknown sort in some unknown place nobody knew just where or even ..if.. there actually was such a grave.
    The photo on the cover of this issue answers that question after fifty six years..
    P.S. The owner of the gravesite, as shown in cemetery records, lists Capital Airlines.
    Additional updated information; In an attempt to locate the elusive flight number for the trip I enlisted the assistance of that intrepid CAPAIR fellow-editor, Ed Miller, who is still involved in ALPA safety activities as the Associations lead volcano authority. Ed dug into the ALPA accident records and retrieved the following
    Flight 410, N88842, PCA, from Pittsburgh to Washington was cleared to cruise at 7000 feet on an instrument flight plan. In the vicinity of Flintstone Intersection [that means a navigational fix.] , the flight was cleared to Herndon fan marker [another navigational fix] to maintain 7000 feet and was advised a delay of an hour and 20 minutes could be expected because of traffic. At this, the pilot requested permission to approach Washington on contact flight rules on the N.W leg of the Arcola Range [that means looking out the cockpit windows to both navigate and avoid obstructions and/or other traffic]. The report continues the aircraft was sighted by witnesses, west of the ridge of mountains, below the crest of the ridge (emphasis added) and heading in a southeast direction. The plane entered a cloud covering the top on the ridge and while in this cloud struck the top of the ridge [Lookout Rock, West Virginia] and was destroyed by impact and fire.
    And now, sadly, and fifty six years later, you know the rest of the story as best we have been able to piece it together. Ed Bud.

    But Wait There's More

    Epilogue-Part #2


    CAPITAL AIRLINES ASSOCIATION

    From The May 2004 Newsletter:

    by Bud Ruddy and Ed Miller


    You will recall this from the Aug. 03 Newsletter;



    June 13, 1947.. Flight 410, N88842, PCA, from Pittsburgh to Washington was cleared to cruise at 7000 feet on an instrument flight plan. In the vicinity of Flintstone Intersection, the flight was cleared to Herndon fan marker to maintain 7000 feet and was advised a delay of an hour and 20 minutes could be expected because of traffic. At this, the pilot requested permission to approach Washington on contact flight rules on the N.W leg of the Arcola Range [that means looking out the cockpit windows to both navigate and avoid obstructions and/or other traffic]. The report continues the aircraft was sighted by witnesses, west of the ridge of mountains, below the crest of the ridge (emphasis added) and heading in a southeast direction. The plane entered a cloud covering the top on the ridge and while in this cloud struck the top of the ridge [Lookout Rock, West Virginia] and was destroyed by impact and fire....
    ....Fifty seven years after the accident a couple of old men driven by the nostalgia of Capital Airlines and an obvious love for aviation history got lucky, and finally managed to located the actual wreckage of PCA Flight 410.... Having run down old newspaper stories, locating a long retired Sheriff who provided his valuable memories the of events, and plodding through a variety of archives, (ALPA, industry resources, magazine stories, and the recollections of Charlie Akes son, Kyle, about his own trip up into the mountains some years back), Ed Miller and I decided to see if we could somehow find the site. If we found it, what else might we find?? And so the quest began..
    The CAB report was a bit too vague and dated to help us much with respect to specific location after all these years. Looking at the photos in the newspapers of that time provided the first limited clue. If you knew the overall geography of the Shenandoah Valley, one could discern the Shenandoah River off in the background. That was the first hint. If you could see the river from the accident site you must, in turn, be able to see the accident site from the vicinity of the river without the impact area being obscured by any intervening terrain. Driving along the rural roads between Leesburg, VA and Charlestown, WV gave a perspective of where one would have to focus further attention.
    After having talked to Kyle Ake about his adventures up there some years ago we had gotten some good leads, though still quite vague. A story written by a Russell Farris and published in Airliner magazine in the summer of 1996 described his own lengthy and laborious search for the wreckage. Bringing all these pieces together in a useable fashion was more difficult than one might imagine.
    By late January Ed and I felt we knew the general area of the mountain ridges to search but we also needed more specific terrain information and a reliable map resource before just wandering around in the woods along the Appalachian Trail. We decided as a first step, to go to the Courthouse of Jefferson County, WV. This was to check the land records for the properties that seemed best to begin a search and find out the names of property owners. The idea was to get permission before creating some problems when we flatlanders from Washington started wandering the mountains of those West(by-God)Virginia hill-folk...
    Con't
    ...It was a very cold morning and the initial reception was not especially warm. While waiting patiently we struck up a conversation with a fellow who seemed like a local good-old-boy and who had obvious credibility with the land records staffer. We casually explained to this fellow what we were up to and it seemed to bring his approval. Things immediately improved and they began to give us advice, emphasizing the need to avoid the myriad of confusing routes up in the mountains where we planned to scope things out. Many small summer homes have been constructed within this mountainous terrain over the years. The route up into that area of the mountains is a patchwork of constant twists and turns and poor markings. A wrong turn would not be easily recognized until well after the fact. Having acquired the land map of Jefferson County at their records office proved a very wise decision, as we soon discovered when starting to snake our way up into the mountains.
    The map we decided to purchase was somewhat l a r g e and in true pilot fashion, it blocked some of our forward visibility. In Capt. Millers words; With Capt. Ruddy’s firm grip on the wheel, his white knuckles reflecting in the sunlit windshield and, in a strained voice as we careened up hill, he shouted; Your supposed to be the #@!** navigator Capt. Miller, do we go left or right?, as we snaked repeatedly around the endless curves! Capt Miller response was, (as one who knows him would readily expect), Yes, Capt. Ruddy, left or right, whatever is required.
    Eventually reaching the highest and last narrow road within just a stones throw of the Appalachian Trail, we found ourselves unable to reconcile the land map property descriptions with anything we were looking for by way of a property owner.
    The weather was clear but windy and bitterly cold. Just as we were about to begin our return back down the mountain and toward civilization in northern Virginia, an SUV with a couple of senior citizens came around the bend. Ed hailed them, asking if they might know anything about an old airline accident of yesteryear and any possible wreckage that might still somewhere in the woods? The woman driver looked over toward her husband, they had a few words, and she responded, my husband knows just where it is and if you follow us we will lead you there now.
    Eureka! We had struck gold!
    They led us about a mile further along the lane and shortly before it ended we stopped just above an unoccupied vacation home. Getting out of the car, Ed and I could immediately make out the remnants of the rusted landing gear about 200 feet down the slope! What was of particular interest was that the wreckage site was about a mile farther along the ridge line than we were expecting from the older written records. Had we not stumbled upon those long time resident old folks who were familiar with the immediate terrain, it is very doubtful that we would have ever found anything at all. The gentleman was most helpful in identifying the property owners, understanding that we wanted to contact them for permission to come back on another occasion. This time with members of the CAPAIR Board so they too could see and visit the site in a more leisurely manner.
    Not long after returning home an e-mail came across the circuits from the fellow who helped us originally and who provided the phone contacts of the property owners where the wreckage is located.
    Included in his message was the admonition that we had best be certain to return to the mountain before spring arrived, ...since the wreckage site is within a mile of the largest timber rattlesnake den in North America and the copperheads are particularly aggressive and inclined to pursue any prey that gets near to them.
    Not wanting to risk killing off half of the CAPAIR Board of Directors, we arranged with the owners for our visit to take place the first day of spring, when all (spring growth and crawling animals) were still dormant
    The owners were most hospitable, as you can readily tell from looking at the plaque** in this newsletter. To respect their desire for privacy and avoid provoking the always curious string of sightseers, we assured them the specific location of what remains of the wreckage would not be published by us....
    Still clearly identifiable are the remains of two of the four engines, both landing gear struts as well as numerous pieces of exhaust system components. In addition are parts and smaller pieces of cowling and airframe components. All the bigger sections have disappeared over time. We heard that a W. VA scrap metal dealer scooped up most of what was of commercial value to him years ago.
    (Absolutely no truth to the malicious rumor that Ed and I are trying to talk Jerry Banks into bankrolling a search for Amelia Earhart !!!)
    **Note: The online copy contained no plaque
    These guys were determined and knew their stuff. I'm trying to figure out how to contact them and give them proper attribution. This will have to do for the time being-
    Thanks guys, at the Capital Airline's Association



    PHOTOS!!



    These are those intrepid explorers and aviation sleuths who tracked down the site of their company's air crash
    Jerry Banks on the left, Bud Ruddy, Ed Miller and _???_



    Ed Miller and Bud Ruddy pose behind the innards of one of the airliner's 4 engines.Ed Miller and Bud Ruddy pose behind the innards of one of the airliner's 4 engines.



    Jerry Banks in the same pose.



    exhaust rings of the engines side by side



    A closer look at that engine



    A firewall



    One of the landing gear struts:
    We recall these as HUMONGOUS pieces of steel. Of course, I was only 11 or 12 at the time. Two of these babies and the nose apparatus were all that supported the DC-4.



    The other piece of landing gear. (btw, I wonder why we didn't get bitten by those rattlesnakes???)

    Note from the editors:
    Since we first published this account, we've received several responses fro members of families who lost loved ones in the tragedy. Their messages have given much poignancy to this account. In January of 2013 "Seedsower55" contacted us. He was the great nephew of one of the victims. His mom had been living with the family of her uncle when they learned that he had perished. We asked if she would like to contribute her recollections of that time. She has responded with the account below:

    Capital Airlinecrash - June 13, 1947

    My uncle was Cecil L. Eaton, a passenger on the airplane that crashed on Friday, June 13, 1947 at 6:13 pm. on a mountain in West Virginia. He was 53 years old. My name is Marjorie “Mickey” Reid. I had been living with my aunt and uncle, Laura and Cecil Eaton ,since I was nine years old. They had one son, Norman. At the time of the crash I was seventeen and Norman was twenty-one. The accident happened on Father’s Day Weekend.

    I had arrived home from Duke the weekend before the crash. That weekend my uncle had missed his connection in Washington and had arrived home on Saturday morning by train. My uncle worked in Pittsburgh during the week and flew home to High Point, North Carolina on Friday night. On Sunday he would take a night train back to Pittsburgh. He was a consulting Industrial Engineer with expertise in time and motion studies.


    On the day of the crash my cousin Norman arrived home from VPI for the summer. The family owned property in Sedgefield which is between High Point and Greensboro. A home had been planned on the property. The plans for the house had been completed and construction was to begin shortly. At the time of the crash, my aunt and uncle had been married twenty-six years and had moved thirty-nine times. This was to be their final home.

    On the afternoon of June 13th,we went to the property for a cookout. About the time we left the property for the airport rain began falling. The flight from Washington was scheduled to arrive about 8:00 pm. but was late and did not arrive until approximately 9:30 pm. A passenger on the Washington flight told us that a plane had been “lost in the soup” over Washington and that the field had been cleared for this plane. Hearing this, we assumed that my uncle had missed the flight from Washington and had decided to come home by train. This is why I mentioned the problem the previous week.

    We learned later that the airline employees at the Greensboro airport knew the plane was lost but were instructed not to tell us. We came home . Later in the evening about 11:00 pm. my aunt received a call from a friend, James King ,in Danville, Virginia. We had planned to visit this family for the weekend and did not think it unusual to receive this call. James King, was aware that the plane was missing but when he learned we did not know, he did not mention it to my aunt thinking it might be better for us to go on to sleep.


    The next morning at approximately 8:30 am. we were awakened by the telephone ringing. It was James King calling again. When he realized we still did not know, he told my aunt about the crash. While my aunt was talking on the telephone, I went to the door and picked up the Greensboro newspaper and read the headlines. This is how I found out that the airplane had crashed . I have always felt that the airline should have notified the families before they released the information to the news media!

    I made coffee and as we read the account in the paper a neighbor came to the door. A reporter from the “High Point Enterprise” had contacted her for background information on the family. She told him that there was no activity at our house, so she came to check. When she found that my uncle was on the plane she went home and began calling our minister and members of the church. High Point was a small town at that time and word spread quickly. Within an hour seventy-five people were in the house. My uncle had a brother , Chester “Rocks” Eaton and a sister, Faye Eaton , living in Greensboro. We contacted them and they arrived a short time later. He also had two brothers, Ronald and Buck, who lived out-of-state and arrived at a later time.


    An official from the airline called about 9:00 am. The wreckage had been found. A road had to be bulldozed up the mountain which he estimated would take about five hours. He did not feel that there would be survivors. He advised us not to come. So we waited.

    We called all the funeral homes in High Point but learned none of them could help us. There were several funerals in town that weekend. My uncle’s brother called Hanes Funeral home in Greensboro . The funeral home agreed to provide services if needed.

    A church member, Mrs. Pearl Gorman, took over our kitchen and other church members helped. Coffee and food were put out for people who were coming to the house to visit and also to bring food and offers of help. I remember one person giving me a congealed salad saying that she had heard that we already had five cakes.

    At approximately 2:00 pm. we had a call from the airline telling us that there were no survivors and if the body could be identified ,we would be responsible for furnishing transportation for the body and for removal as soon as possible. The town closest to the crash site was small and had limited facilities. We called the funeral home and put a vehicle and three people on stand-by, to be paid by the hour.

    Times were different back in 1947. There was no air-conditioning, dishwasher, TV or e-mail. The weather was hot and humid. We had fans, telephone, the newspapers and radio.

    Family members were beginning to arrive from out of state. My cousin went to the train station and airport to meet people throughout the day and night.

    In the meantime, a person from my uncle’s office in Pittsburgh went to the site and did identify my uncle’s body. At approximately 1:00 am. Sunday ,we received word that my uncle had been identified and that he was one of three people that had not been burned. At that time I called the funeral home and gave permission for the vehicle and funeral home employees to go to the town where the rescue operations were located. They drove all night and stayed long enough to eat and claim my uncle’s body.


    At about 5:00 am. Sunday morning I finally was able to sleep for a few hours. Several people had arrived during the night. All the beds were occupied, so I slept on the sofa. Early Sunday afternoon, we received a call from the funeral home. The funeral home employees had arrived back in Greensboro. We went to the funeral home on Sunday afternoon to make arrangements. I met the person who would direct the funeral. His name was Charlie. I never did know his last name. I was the designated family member for Charlie to contact.

    We learned that the left side of my uncle’s face was gone and that all the bones in his body were broken. My aunt was determined to view the body, so the owner of Manning Studies in Greensboro where we had our photographs taken was called. He was able to furnish the funeral home with a picture and my uncle’s skin and hair color. The funeral home reconstructed the left side of his face so that we had an open casket with a clear cover to protect the portion of the face that had been reconstructed. On Sunday afternoon we also went to the cemetery in Greensboro to purchase a grave site. My aunt later asked why we had purchased an eight grave plot. We told her we liked the tree that shaded the plot. There are now five graves in the plot and the tree is now gone.


    Monday was spent making arrangements for the service and taking care of relatives. We also contacted pallbearers, some of whom had to come from out-of-state. The casket was brought to the house late Monday afternoon and was placed in the den next to the living room. Flowers began to arrive. People came on Monday afternoon and evening and on Tuesday morning to view the body. There were a few people we did not know who came, whether out of curiosity or compassion , but family members spoke with everyone. My aunt was very concerned that gloves were on my uncle’s hands. We explained that his hands were so badly crushed, that his hands could not be restored. My aunt was in a state of shock the entire time and remembered very little of what took place.

    Two family friends, Dan Gorman and Cliff Lehmann, asked if they could arrange for a wake. I do not remember exactly how many people attended and stayed for the night. I stayed with them until about 2:00 am.

    The funeral was held on Tuesday afternoon. On Tuesday morning Charlie came to help me with the floral arrangements. Racks were put up in the living room and the den to hold the sprays, while we put the baskets of flowers on the dining room table and chairs. When the 125th floral arrangement arrived I stopped counting. The funeral was held at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in High Point with internment at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Greensboro. Flowers had been banked around the grave and unfortunately, a pallbearer accidentally tripped the lowering devise for the casket ,so the casket began to fall into the grave on end. My aunt fainted. After the casket was righted and my aunt was revived, the internment service began.

    While we were at the cemetery, friends went to the house to clean and move furniture back in place. Our dog, Shorty, who had been staying with friends was returned to the house.

    We had very little contact with the airline. The airline offered my aunt $8,000.00 compensation. At the time, a law in West Virginia limited compensation to $10,000.00, so $8,000.00 was the most any family was offered. No luggage was recovered. Items that were recovered from his pockets were returned about two weeks later. There was a handkerchief which had minute tears all through it, currency and coins and his pocket watch. The watch crystal was broken and the watch had stopped at the exact time of the crash. We wound the watch and it began working immediately. I have the watch and it works perfectly today.



    The accident changed our lives. The house in Sedgefield was never built. My aunt began a catering business. My cousin and I returned to school in the fall. My aunt and cousin both died in 1966. The only other relative who was living at the time and is still living is my uncle’s nephew, Sam Eaton, who was three at the time of the crash.

    We were grateful for all the help from friends and relatives, the family who took care of the dog, the family friend, Bill, who comforted me when I cried that first day on Saturday, our minister, the airline, the people at Hanes Funeral Home , American Associated Consultants, my uncle’s employer, and the staff of the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh where my uncle stayed during the week.


    I am 83 years old . While the times mentioned are not exact ,I feel that they are accurate to the time of day. I do not feel that I could make the trip to the site since it is so rugged. This is the story of one family, the Cecil L. Eaton family. I feel that the other forty-nine families have similar stories.


    Marjorie “Mickey” Reid

    January 30, 2013

    Cecil Eagan's Obituary, Marjorie's uncle & adopted father, appeared in the High Point (NC) Enterprise on June 16th 1947:

    Cecil L. Eaton Funeral Services Tuesday, 2PM


    Funeral services for Cecil L, Eaton, who was one of the victims of the ill-fated Capital Air Line's plane which crashed near Leesburg, Va., last Friday, will be held Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the St. Mary's Episcopal church. Services will be in charge of the pastor, Rev. Howard S. Hartzell. Interment will follow in the Forest Lawn cemetery, Greensboro,


    Eaton was a resident of High Polnt who was employed in Pittsburgh, Pa., and who customarliy flew home every week-end to see his family. He was en route to High Point at the time of the crash.


    Eaton is survived by his wife, a son, Norman, and an adopted daughter, Marejorie Streicher who reside at 905 E. Circle drive; two
    brothers, Chester Eaton of Greensboro, Ronald Eaton of Miami, FIa., and a sister, Faye Eaton of Greensboro.

    Members of the family who live out of town who have arrived for the funeral are Mrs. John Gold and Mrs. William Acquard of Buffalo, N. Y., sisters of Mrs. Eaton, and a brother of the deceased, Ronald and wife of Miami, and George Lockport of New York City.


    Active pailbearers will be DougIas Keough, Jack Skelly and Harry Kraft, all of Pittsburgh, Pa.; James King and Karch King. of Danville, Va.; C. H. Tabbut, Dan Gorman and C. E. Lehman of High Point. Honorary pallbedrers will be W. E. Davis, Sam Clapp, W. J. McCIure, Royster Thurman, H.W. Ladehoff, Edgar Hartley, T. Patterson, H. B. Whitlark, Roger Carr, LeRoy Chloupek and John
    Diffendal and W, L. Tabb all of High Point.



    New Information: 5/8/2013

    We've received correspondence from another of Margaret (Peggy) Kueppers' nieces. Forum user "findingfamily" had contacted us earlier and posted in this article's replies. The additions to our account include two newspaper reports that shed more light on the toll that the tragedy took on the families of the victims. Also we have an image of Peggy taken shortly before her death.

    From either the St. Paul Pioneer Press or the St. Paul Dispatch
    on Saturday and Sunday, June 14th and 15th

    Girl From St. Paul Believed On Plane

    A St. Paul girl, en route to a visit in Washington D.C., as a graduation gift, was reported aboard the missing Capital Airlines plane believed down between Chicago and Washington Friday night.


    She is Miss Margaret Kueppers, 17 years old, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Kueppers, 833 Portland Ave. She was graduated last week from St. Joseph's Academy.


    A passenger list issued by the airlines listed Miss Kueppers as one of those aboard.


    Her father said Margaret left the Twin Cities Friday morning via Northwest Airlines and was to transfer to a Washington-bound plane at Chicago.


    She was to visit an uncle, John Courtney, Washington attorney and former St. Paul resident, in Silver Spring, Md., a Washington suburb.


    Another passengerfrom the Northwest was listed as I. E. Goldberg of Milwaukee, Wis.
    AND
    Air Victim's Mother Ends Vigil Of Hope
    by Garreth Hiebert


    A vigil of hope ended Saturday night for the woman who lay ill in a St. Joseph's hospital room.


    With stoic composure, Mrs. Fred Kueppers of 833 Portland ave. learned from her husband shortly after 5 p. m. that their second oldest child, 17 year old Margaret, had perished in a Virginia crash of a Captital airliner.


    "Mrs Kueppers took it like a soldier," her hisband said.


    She had known about the crash since Saturday morning when the news penetrated the hospital corridors.


    Lke her husband and seven children in the house on Portland ave., Mrs. Kueppers still hoped that when rescuers reached the scene of the accident, they might find Margaret alive.


    Just after 4 p. m. John Courtney of Washington, the uncle whom Margaret was en route to visit as a graduation present, telephoned the Kueppers's home.


    "I am with the searching party and we have reached as near the wreckage as we can," he said.
    "There is no sign of life anywhere around it."


    As he talked, the same information was being broadcast across the nation.


    The message was sent to Mr. Kueppers who was at the hospital visiting his wife.


    Quietly he paraphrased it to her. There was silence in the room as the tension relaxed.


    The long day of anxious waiting was over.

    A lovely young lady,
    Peggy Kueppers












    Comments 23 Comments
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      A new development-2009!!


      We've just received correspondence from the niece of passenger Dorothea Peters DeCray
      She says:

      My aunt Dorthea Peters DeCray died in that crash on Friday the 13th 1947. When I began my research all I knew was that she died on Friday the 13th by hitting a mountain on her way to Washington. Many of the airline crash/disaster websites don’t even list this crash. I am very grateful to your organization for all of the work that went into finding the crash site and publishing the information on the web. I am not sure if anyone in my family had ever seen the newspaper picture of the funeral. As I grew up all I was ever told was that she had been buried in a “common grave”. My grandmother never let a Friday the 13th go by without recalling her daughter’s “death day” and warning us never to travel on that day. I have been doing online research for my family tree for some time and it was a surprise to find your website with pages devoted to that crash. I have a couple of additional bits of information I had found on the web prior to finding your website, which include a list of references I had found at
      http://www.planecrashinfo.com/reference.htm
      and the reason for the crash on the
      http://www.planecrashinfo.com/1947/1947.htm
      She relates the following Statistics
      ACCIDENT DETAILS

      Date: June 13, 1947
      Time: 18:16
      Location: Leesburg, Virginia
      Operator: Pennsylvania Central Airlines
      Flight #: 410
      Route: Pittsburgh - Washington D.C.
      AC Type: Douglas DC-4 (C-54-DO)
      Registration: NC88842
      cn / ln: 3112
      Aboard: 50 (passengers:47 crew:3)
      Fatalities: 50 (passengers:47 crew:3)
      Ground: 0
      Summary: The aircraft crashed into a ridge at Lookout Rock, 8 miles SE of Charles Town, WV during a rainstorm. The action of the pilot in descending below the minimum en route altitude under conditions of weather which prevented adequate visual reference to the ground. A contributing cause was the faulty clearance given by ATC.
      I responded
      Your note has just made every bit the effort I put into that article, and more, worthwhile. I was hoping that kinfolk of the tragedy's victims would find it and be heartened that the story was being remembered. Yours is the first contact I've received. Fortunately, I had captured much of the information included from a Capital Airlines retirees website before it was taken "off the air". Those guys did the heavy lifting. I just played in the wreckage as a youth and felt compelled to dig into newspaper files to find and OCR the printed accounts as an adult.
      I JUST discovered that we have 2 versions online- an oversite in transferring from one format to another. The latest version, the one I digitized is HERE-immeasurably more readable than images of the news articles in the first version. There is probably more information available, particularly from Loudoun County VA-Jefferson County WV was considered "in the sticks" way back when and kinda left out of the loop after the recovery efforts. I'll tack the info you provided and the fact you contacted us as an addendum to the article.

      If you or any of your fam want to visit the site, I will be glad to arrange the visit. It's private property now and the owners, whom I can contact thru a 3rd party, have indicated that they wouldn't object. I've got to remember to drop that other link. I get a headache just thinking about trying to read the original images I scanned. I'm SO glad you were pleased upon finding the information on the 'net. I'll forward your mail to my partners (all our users) in our website endeavor. They'll enjoy the "attaboy" too.
    1. shadowplay's Avatar
      shadowplay -
      Great job! It is good to see the historical content in the older boards get transferred over, and not lost.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Quote Originally Posted by shadowplay View Post
      Great job! It is good to see the historical content in the older boards get transferred over, and not lost.
      All that was there before is still in storage-not lost-but the bugaboo is me finding the time to figure out the transfer. It took me 4 hours this evening to transfer the airline crash article and about the same to do FOSS day before yesterday. FOSS still needs a lot of work-likewise BRILLO. Anyone out there is welcome to help-hint, hint-and I'll reiterate that we welcome new info on any subject interesting to our users.
    1. PurpleCowEatingCake's Avatar
      PurpleCowEatingCake -
      that day sure affected many,and I know it would have me had I lived in the area. Very scary indeed. There should be a memorial put up there on the mountain so nobody builds on that part of land, oohhh, creepy! Thanks for the share Willis
    1. charliepff's Avatar
      charliepff -
      Has anyone ever hiked out to find the site?
    1. LFE's Avatar
      LFE -
      Quote Originally Posted by charliepff View Post
      Has anyone ever hiked out to find the site?
      Its on private property and I was told that the owners wish to keep it private (unless you have family that was lost in the crash and that seems reasonable to me).
    1. charliepff's Avatar
      charliepff -
      Thanks LFE,

      We had a crash like that back home. It was a military plane that hit the mountain. We actually found that site and there was parts left. I did not see the pics either until now.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Quote Originally Posted by charliepff View Post
      Has anyone ever hiked out to find the site?
      LFE is correct, it's private. The photos I included in the article show just about all that's left. Even in the late 1950's when I hiked up there, little was left. The area was pretty well scoured during the search for the missing (2 were never found). I think only those who lost kinfolk might have legit interest in visiting. I keep meaning to visit the cemetery in Leesburg,

      but keep procrastinating.
    1. starvingmusician's Avatar
      starvingmusician -
      The Civil Aeronautics Board's (CAB) Report of the crash can be found here:

      http://ntl1.specialcollection.net/sc...h%5C061347.pdf

      There's a website called Aircraft Crashes Record Office that has a remarkably clear photo of the crashed DC-4: http://www.baaa-acro.com/Photos-64/NC88842.jpg

      You may want to contact them to see if they'd allow a copy of the photo on your site.

      Judy
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Gosh, thanks for the links. The photo is just right. The nose hit below the rock outcrop and all the heavy pieces of the aircraft stayed below-the ones seen in the photos by the Cap Air Alumni. The lighter parts were thrown up the mountainside and have long ago been salvaged. Golly. they were so close to missing the ridge. I will contact the crash record office asap. the more places the info is displayed, perhaps the better loved ones can locate them.

      Lol, things are a bit hectic right now starving, but I'll get to it.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      I finally got around to taking starvingmusician's advice:
      There's a website called Aircraft Crashes Record Office that has a remarkably clear photo of the crashed DC-4...
      You may want to contact them to see if they'd allow a copy of the photo on your site.
      Judy
      They indicated that they had no objection-that to the best of their knowledge there were no copyright issues.. it is a striking view. The tail must have been thrown up toward the summit near the Appalachian Trail. By the time I visited the site in the late 1950's, the tail was long gone.

      click the pic
    1. KatherineA's Avatar
      KatherineA -
      Wow. That is an amazing photo. They almost made it. I did not realize some remains of victims were never found.
    1. findingfamily's Avatar
      findingfamily -
      My Aunt was on that flight. Aunt Peggy, whom I am named after, had just graduated from high school and her graduation present was to fly to Washington, DC to visit my Grandma's sister and her family. My Dad is the one that received the phone call that the plane had crashed and had to tell Grandpa. Thank you for the article you posted. I sent a copy to my Dad. Peggy Kueppers McGuinness





      Quote Originally Posted by Willis View Post
      A new development-2009!!


      We've just received correspondence from the niece of passenger Dorothea Peters DeCray
      She says:

      My aunt Dorthea Peters DeCray died in that crash on Friday the 13th 1947. When I began my research all I knew was that she died on Friday the 13th by hitting a mountain on her way to Washington. Many of the airline crash/disaster websites don’t even list this crash. I am very grateful to your organization for all of the work that went into finding the crash site and publishing the information on the web. I am not sure if anyone in my family had ever seen the newspaper picture of the funeral. As I grew up all I was ever told was that she had been buried in a “common grave”. My grandmother never let a Friday the 13th go by without recalling her daughter’s “death day” and warning us never to travel on that day. I have been doing online research for my family tree for some time and it was a surprise to find your website with pages devoted to that crash. I have a couple of additional bits of information I had found on the web prior to finding your website, which include a list of references I had found at
      http://www.planecrashinfo.com/reference.htm
      and the reason for the crash on the
      http://www.planecrashinfo.com/1947/1947.htm
      She relates the following Statistics
      ACCIDENT DETAILS

      Date: June 13, 1947
      Time: 18:16
      Location: Leesburg, Virginia
      Operator: Pennsylvania Central Airlines
      Flight #: 410
      Route: Pittsburgh - Washington D.C.
      AC Type: Douglas DC-4 (C-54-DO)
      Registration: NC88842
      cn / ln: 3112
      Aboard: 50 (passengers:47 crew:3)
      Fatalities: 50 (passengers:47 crew:3)
      Ground: 0
      Summary: The aircraft crashed into a ridge at Lookout Rock, 8 miles SE of Charles Town, WV during a rainstorm. The action of the pilot in descending below the minimum en route altitude under conditions of weather which prevented adequate visual reference to the ground. A contributing cause was the faulty clearance given by ATC.
      I responded
      Your note has just made every bit the effort I put into that article, and more, worthwhile. I was hoping that kinfolk of the tragedy's victims would find it and be heartened that the story was being remembered. Yours is the first contact I've received. Fortunately, I had captured much of the information included from a Capital Airlines retirees website before it was taken "off the air". Those guys did the heavy lifting. I just played in the wreckage as a youth and felt compelled to dig into newspaper files to find and OCR the printed accounts as an adult.
      I JUST discovered that we have 2 versions online- an oversite in transferring from one format to another. The latest version, the one I digitized is HERE-immeasurably more readable than images of the news articles in the first version. There is probably more information available, particularly from Loudoun County VA-Jefferson County WV was considered "in the sticks" way back when and kinda left out of the loop after the recovery efforts. I'll tack the info you provided and the fact you contacted us as an addendum to the article.

      If you or any of your fam want to visit the site, I will be glad to arrange the visit. It's private property now and the owners, whom I can contact thru a 3rd party, have indicated that they wouldn't object. I've got to remember to drop that other link. I get a headache just thinking about trying to read the original images I scanned. I'm SO glad you were pleased upon finding the information on the 'net. I'll forward your mail to my partners (all our users) in our website endeavor. They'll enjoy the "attaboy" too.
    1. findingfamily's Avatar
      findingfamily -
      Aunt Peggy, whom I am named after, had just graduated from high school and her graduation present was to fly to Washington, DC to visit my Grandma's sister and her family. My Dad is the that received the phone call that the plane had crashed and had to tell Grandpa. Thank you for the article you posted. I sent a copy to my Dad. Peggy Kueppers McGuinness





      Quote Originally Posted by Willis View Post
      A new development-2009!!


      We've just received correspondence from the niece of passenger Dorothea Peters DeCray
      She says:

      My aunt Dorthea Peters DeCray died in that crash on Friday the 13th 1947. When I began my research all I knew was that she died on Friday the 13th by hitting a mountain on her way to Washington. Many of the airline crash/disaster websites don’t even list this crash. I am very grateful to your organization for all of the work that went into finding the crash site and publishing the information on the web. I am not sure if anyone in my family had ever seen the newspaper picture of the funeral. As I grew up all I was ever told was that she had been buried in a “common grave”. My grandmother never let a Friday the 13th go by without recalling her daughter’s “death day” and warning us never to travel on that day. I have been doing online research for my family tree for some time and it was a surprise to find your website with pages devoted to that crash. I have a couple of additional bits of information I had found on the web prior to finding your website, which include a list of references I had found at
      http://www.planecrashinfo.com/reference.htm
      and the reason for the crash on the
      http://www.planecrashinfo.com/1947/1947.htm
      She relates the following Statistics
      ACCIDENT DETAILS

      Date: June 13, 1947
      Time: 18:16
      Location: Leesburg, Virginia
      Operator: Pennsylvania Central Airlines
      Flight #: 410
      Route: Pittsburgh - Washington D.C.
      AC Type: Douglas DC-4 (C-54-DO)
      Registration: NC88842
      cn / ln: 3112
      Aboard: 50 (passengers:47 crew:3)
      Fatalities: 50 (passengers:47 crew:3)
      Ground: 0
      Summary: The aircraft crashed into a ridge at Lookout Rock, 8 miles SE of Charles Town, WV during a rainstorm. The action of the pilot in descending below the minimum en route altitude under conditions of weather which prevented adequate visual reference to the ground. A contributing cause was the faulty clearance given by ATC.
      I responded
      Your note has just made every bit the effort I put into that article, and more, worthwhile. I was hoping that kinfolk of the tragedy's victims would find it and be heartened that the story was being remembered. Yours is the first contact I've received. Fortunately, I had captured much of the information included from a Capital Airlines retirees website before it was taken "off the air". Those guys did the heavy lifting. I just played in the wreckage as a youth and felt compelled to dig into newspaper files to find and OCR the printed accounts as an adult.
      I JUST discovered that we have 2 versions online- an oversite in transferring from one format to another. The latest version, the one I digitized is HERE-immeasurably more readable than images of the news articles in the first version. There is probably more information available, particularly from Loudoun County VA-Jefferson County WV was considered "in the sticks" way back when and kinda left out of the loop after the recovery efforts. I'll tack the info you provided and the fact you contacted us as an addendum to the article.

      If you or any of your fam want to visit the site, I will be glad to arrange the visit. It's private property now and the owners, whom I can contact thru a 3rd party, have indicated that they wouldn't object. I've got to remember to drop that other link. I get a headache just thinking about trying to read the original images I scanned. I'm SO glad you were pleased upon finding the information on the 'net. I'll forward your mail to my partners (all our users) in our website endeavor. They'll enjoy the "attaboy" too.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Quote Originally Posted by findingfamily View Post
      My Aunt was on that flight. Aunt Peggy, whom I am named after, had just graduated from high school and her graduation present was to fly to Washington, DC to visit my Grandma's sister and her family.
      Details about those who perished serve to add more poignancy and perspective to the account of the tragedy. Thank you for sharing that detail about your Aunt Peggy (MARGARET KUEPPERS, 17, St. Paul).
    1. Tony's Avatar
      Tony -
      Quote Originally Posted by findingfamily View Post
      Thank you for the article you posted.
      And thank you for checking in!
    1. Seedsower55's Avatar
      Seedsower55 -
      My Mother was 17 years old at the time of the crash and was the Niece of Cecile Eaton, one of the passengers.
      She actually lived with Uncle Cecile and her Aunt Laura in High Point, NC. Her parents had passed away when
      she was 9 and aunt Laura and Uncle Cecile had taken her in to take care of her and raise her. Uncle Cecile
      was an efficiency engineer with his engineering firm and during WWII he would work in the war plants and
      find ways to make them more efficient. He traveled a lot with his work. Interestingly, my mother inherited
      his pocket watch which he had on his person during the crash. My Uncle was thrown clear of the wreckage
      and was not burned. The watch sustained damage to the crystal and mechanism but was able to be fixed and still
      works to this day. She has it displayed at her house in Raleigh, N.C. The watch stopped at the exact moment of the
      crash.This article was a great historical account of the incident. Thanks for taking the time to do this. It is important
      from my families perspective that my Uncle and the other 49 Souls not be forgotton. Uncle Cecile is buried in Greensboro
      NC along with Aunt Laura, his Son Norman and my sister Florence. Thank you for allowing me to share this. AB Reid
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      Seedsower,

      It's correspondence such as yours that makes the effort worthwhile. I assure you it was a labor of love. As a youngster playing on and around the wreckage, I was blithely clueless about the circumstances. Later when the scope of the tragedy did make an impression, I didn't have the time or opportunity to look further into the incident. Enter the Internet and the notion to establish this website and "the rest is history."

      One regret was that I didn't pull the information together sooner. After 60+ years not many of the victims' loved ones survive. I'm thankful you've been able to locate the account and add the information to the story. If you are interested in visiting the site, I can make arrangements with a little advance notice.

      Thanks again for your comments.
    1. Seedsower55's Avatar
      Seedsower55 -
      We would be most interested in coming up to view the site. My Mother does not think she would make the trip due to the rugged terrain however myself, my brother and one of Uncle Cecile's grand daughters would certainly love to come. I had heard about the crash for many years growing up but had never realized the details of it. I know that we would have to come up before the end of March due to the rattle snakes. So the end of February, 1st of March would probably be good. You can e-mail me with your contact information.
    1. Willis's Avatar
      Willis -
      I'v added a touching account penned by Seedsower55's Mom about the how the family coped with the loss. Imho, it's a must read! It was added to the end of the article.
      Be sure to go on to the next page
Mountain Lake Club