Transcribed from St. Petersburg Times, St.
Petersburg, FL, April 26, 1951, p. 1:
Airliner and Navy Plane Collide; 43 Persons Die
KEY WEST — (UP) — A Cuban airliner and a Navy plane
practicing “blind” flying rammed together in a cloudless sky over
Key West yesterday and 43 persons perished when the two shattered
aircraft plummeted into the ocean. There were no survivors.
Thirty-four passengers, including 28 North Americans, and a Cuban
crew of five went down with the Cubana Airlines DC-6 in 80 feet of
water within sight of hundreds of horrified bathers in Key West’s
public beach. Four Navy flyers perished in their twin-engined
Beechcraft which fluttered into the ocean “like a falling leaf,” an
Captain R. S. Quackenbush Jr., commander of the big U. S. Naval
Installations here, said the Navy plane was “engaged in an
instrument training flight." "We don’t know if the crew was
flying blind at the time of the collision,” Quackenbush said, “but
when they do, one of the pilots has clear visual observation at all
times.” There was one unconfirmed report from an unidentified
witness that the passenger airliner was smoking before the two
planes hit in the air.
The four-engine airliner, en route from Miami to Havana, smacked
into the Atlantic about 1,000 yards offshore from the bathing beach,
within sight of the plush Casa Marina tourist hotel. The Navy rushed
crash boats, a barge and Navy divers to the scene from the Navy
submarine base about two miles away, where President Truman has his
vacation White House.
The chopped up bodies of two women and a man were recovered by the
first boats reaching the scene and two Navy divers operating from
the barge hooked a line to the wreckage and recovered several other
bodies. Meanwhile, the Navy fished out the bodies of two flyers from
the Navy plane which had a wing sheared off by the force of the
The big airliner of Compania Cubana de Aviacion, a subsidiary of Pan
American Airways, left Miami at 11:30 a. m. with a gay group of
passengers bound for Havana. It was due to pass over Key West about
11:50 a.m. At 11:59 a. m., Naval authorities said, came the
shattering collision between 4,000 and 6,000 feet altitude.
Naval Crew Fatalities
Bardsley, Ens. Eugene Samuel - co-pilot
Gasser, Aviation Radioman 1/c Alfred LeRoy
Ready, Midshipman Francis Lavelle
Stuart, Lt.jg. Robert Lawlor - co-pilot
Bardsley, Eugene Samuel
Eugene was born October 15, 1930 in Spokane,
Washington, a son of Samuel Paul Bardsley (1902-1952) and Leah
Eugenia Stiefel Bardsley (1906-1990). His siblings were
Paul William Bardsley (1929-2008), Leon Joel Bardsley
(1932-2020), Stephen Jerome Bardsley (1941-2020) and Sandra
Gasser, Alfred LeRoy
Alfred was born February 27, 1926 in Sauk
County, Wisconsin, a son of Martin Charles Gasser (1908-1968)
and Margaret E. LeSage Gasser (1906-1988). His siblings
were LeRoy Leonard "Smokey" Gasser (1928-1997), Thomas M. Gasser
(1930-2004), Phillip A. Gasser (1932-2018), Jeanette Gasser
Klang, and Charles J. Gasser (1934-2010).
Ready, Francis Lavelle
Stuart, Robert Lawlor
Robert was born May 03, 1922 in Newton,
Massachusetts, the son of Vincent Cyril Stuart (1895-1946).
He married Rebecca Arlney Berlin Bell (1924-1992) in 1948.
Their children were Kathryn A. "Kathy" Stuart and Barbara
"Bobbi" Stuart Martz.
Civil Aeronautics Board Accident Investigation Report
Click HERE to read the Accident Investigation Report put out by the Civil Aeronautics
Board, October 22, 1951.