Topics - C-46 Crash, September 28, 1953
Louisville, Kentucky

 
Close this window

Most recent update to this page: May 26, 2018

Introduction

A twin-engine C46 (Registration No. N66534) operated by Resort Airlines was chartered by the United States Army to help in the transfer of 140 soldiers from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey to Ft. Knox, Kentucky on September 28, 1953.  The passengers were mostly from Puerto Rico, and many had seen combat duty in Korea.  They were being flown to Louisville, Kentucky, for discharge from the Army and then Captain Wharton was to fly them on to Puerto Rico.  There were 38 passengers and 3 crew members on this fated flight. There were five planes chartered to fly the 140 veterans to Louisville, and this flight was the second plane to take off that day.  The first flight landed safely in Louisville.  After the crash of N66534, the other three planes were rerouted to Godman AFB at Ft. Knox.

This C46 nearly touched the ground when trouble developed at Standiford Field, Louisville.  The C46 pulled up to about 400 feet, the liner nosed down, and then crashed into a field near Louisville, Kentucky, with a terrific impact.  Bodies were scattered as far as 100 feet, and some were decapitated.  The plane broke into two parts and both engines burst into flames.  It was the first fatal crash at Standiford Field since it opened in 1944.  Of the 41 persons onboard, there were originally only 19 survivors.  Fourteen of them were taken to St. Joseph's Infirmary; four were taken to General Hospital; and one was sent to St. Anthony's Hospital.  In the interim, military police guards stood around the plane and the entire field was closed off to sightseers.  Over the next few days the number of survivors dropped to 16.  The cause of the accident was mechanical failure.

Coverage of this tragedy appeared in LIFE magazine, October 1953.  To add information to this page of the Korean War Educator contact Lynnita Brown (lynnita@thekwe.org) or call her home in Illinois (217-253-4620).


Page Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Crew & Passenger List
  • Investigation Report
  • Medal for Valor
  • In Memoriam

 

Crew & Passenger List

Crew:

  1. Moller, Capt. Wharton Emil, 33, San Antonio, TX (fatality)
  2. Pickel, Capt. John DeWitt, 31, San Antonio, TX (fatality)
  3. Bush, Dorothy Jean "Sue", 32, Miami, FL (fatality) (stewardess)

Passengers: [Incomplete list]

  1. Baez, Santos Martinez (injured at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  2. Bonilla, S. Santiago (dead at VA Hospital)
  3. Carmelo, Santiago Flores (dead at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  4. Draves, Dorres (injured at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  5. Francisco, Olivera (dead at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  6. Gonzalez, Victor Manuel Marcial (dead at St. Joseph infirmary)
  7. Irigarry-Pratts, Cpl. Carlos Manuel (dead at General Hospital)
  8. Jordan, Antonio C. Ruiz, 20 (died at General Hospital)
  9. Leandry, Searano, 25 (dead at General Hospital)
  10. Lopez, Herrara Carlos (dead at General Hospital)
  11. Lopez, Juan R. (dead at VA Hospital)
  12. Lopez, Julio Rivera (dead at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  13. Maldonado, Moraleo R. (dead at the VA Hospital)
  14. Martinez, Juan F. (dead at General Hospital)
  15. Nieves, Claudio (dead at General Hospital)
  16. Perez, Domingo (survivor)
  17. Quinomez-Kostyo, Sgt. Marlain, Puerto Rico (fatality)
  18. Quinones, Mariano, 25 (dead at General Hospital)
  19. Raul, Perez Perez (dead at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  20. Rivera, Julian F. (dead at VA Hospital)
  21. Rivera, Justino, 32 (survivor - served 8 months in Korea; Bronze Star recipient - thrown clear)
  22. Rodriguez, Sgt. Angelo, 24 (dead at General Hospital)
  23. Rodriguez, Felipe (dead at St. Joseph Infirmary)
  24. Rodrigues, Ernest (dead at General Hospital)
  25. Rosado, Santiago A., 24 (dead at General Hospital)
  26. Santiago, Guillermo, 22 (survivor - served 6 months in Korea)
  27. ?
  28. ?
  29. ?
  30. ?
  31. ?
  32. ?
  33. ?
  34. ?
  35. ?
  36. ?
  37. ?
  38. ?

Investigation Report

Circumstances:

The flight was operating between North Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Louisville. It departed North Philadelphia Airport at 1303 on a Visual Flight Rules flight plan. The crew consisted of Captain W. E. Moller, First Officer J. D. Pickel, and Stewardess D. J. Bush. At departure the gross weight of the aircraft was 44,940 pounds (allowable 45,300 pounds), with 775 gallons of fuel aboard. Distribution of the load was within prescribed center of gravity limitations. The trip between North Philadelphia and Louisville was normal and in good weather.

In the vicinity of Standiford Airport, the pilot requested landing instructions and was cleared for landing on Runway 24 by the tower. The clearance was acknowledged by the pilot. One of the three controllers on duty observed that the approach appeared normal until the flare-out when the aircraft "ballooned" slightly, power was applied, and about 500 feet farther on entered a steep climb. The aircraft then yawed to the left and climbed with a steadily increasing angle of attack. At this point he noticed that a portion of the left elevator was hanging down and immediately advised the aircraft but received no acknowledgement of his warning. The aircraft continued in a steep climbing left turn until it reached an altitude of about 300 feet, stalled, fell off to the left, and struck the ground on the nose and left wing. The fuselage burst open upon impact.

A number of the occupants were thrown free and emergency equipment immediately took survivors to nearby hospitals. Due to the severity of impact and the extent of damage, there was no organized evacuation by the occupants. Sixteen passengers were injured while 25 others occupants, among them all three crew members, were killed.

Causes:

The Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was structural failure of the left elevator in flight, causing loss of control. This structural failure was brought about by the left outboard hinge bolt backing out of the assembly. The underlying cause was improper maintenance which resulted in the installation of hinge bolts and bearings not meeting specifications, and inadequate inspection which failed to detect this condition. The following findings were reported:

  • The flight between North Philadelphia and Standiford Airport, Louisville, was routine and in good weather.
  • The aircraft crashed on Standiford Airport when the left elevator failed at No. 2 hinge station.
  • The No. 1 hinge bolt worked free from the hinge fitting and thus resulted in the outboard third of the elevator being unsupported.
  • The four hinge bolts in the left elevator were a non approved type for this installation, as were three of the four interposer ball bearings; the bolts and bearings in the right elevator were approved types.
  • Major maintenance on Resort Airlines' aircraft was performed under contract by Slick Airways.
  • The left and right elevators were removed by Slick Airways' personnel during a No. 3 inspection of N 66534 at San Antonio, July 8-11, 1953.
  • Excessive wear and other deficiencies ware not noted in any inspection by Slick Airways, Airline Services, or the carrier's personnel curing the period between the No. 3 inspection and the day of the accident.

Medal for Valor

Four Kentucky Air National Guardsmen were cited for heroic efforts to rescue survivors from the wreckage and received the Medal for Valor.  They were: Jess D. Brown, Walter Carter, Howard A. Curtis, and Charles W. Simmons.

Significance of the Medal for Valor:

"The Medal for Valor may be awarded to a member of the Kentucky National Guard who has distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while in the service of the State and/or United States. Additionally, it must have involved personal risk of life or a performance of more than ordinarily hazardous service, the omission of which would not justly subject the person to censure for shortcoming or failure in the performance of duty. No award of the Medal for Valor shall be made except upon clear and uncontested proof of at least one eyewitness or person having personal knowledge of the act or deed."

Recipients & citations:

  • A/1C Jesse Danielson Brown, Jr.
    Headquarters
    123rd Fighter Bomber Wing
    Standiford Field (ANG)
    Kentucky Air National Guard
    Louisville, Kentucky

    28 September 1953
    On 28 September 1953, at Standiford Field, Louisville, Kentucky, A/1C Jesse D. Brown, Jr. (then in a civilian Air Technician capacity as a member of the Alert Crew of the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard) distinguished himself as follows: At 1617 hours, this date, a civilian resort airline aircraft chartered to the Army, carrying a total of forty-one (41) soldiers and crewmen, most of whom were returning Korean veterans, crashed while landing. There is no fire fighting or crash rescue facilities at Standiford Field and A/1C Brown immediately manned the "155" fire fighting truck of the Air National Guard and rushed to the scene of the crash. The aircraft was burning severely when Airman Brown arrived and despite the imminent possibility of gasoline tank explosion, Airman Brown, without benefit of protective clothing, climbed on the burning wing of the aircraft and subdued the blazing wing and fuselage. Such heroic action undoubtedly saved the lives of at least ten severely injured soldiers who were unable to help themselves. Such actions reflect great credit on A/1C Brown, The Air National Guard, and the United States Air Force.

    ---
     
  • T/SGT Charles William Simmons
    Headquarters
    123rd Fighter Bomber Wing
    Standiford Field (ANG)
    Kentucky Air National Guard
    Louisville, Kentucky

    28 September 1953
    On 28 September 1953, at Standiford Field, Louisville, Kentucky, T/SGT Charles W. Simmons (then in a civilian Air Technician capacity as a member of the Alert Crew of the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard) distinguished himself as follows: At 1617 hours, this date, a civilian resort airline aircraft chartered to the Army, carrying a total of forty-one (41) soldiers and crewmen, most of whom were returning Korean veterans, crashed while landing. There is no fire fighting or crash rescue facilities at Standiford Field and T/SGT Simmons immediately manned the "155" fire fighting truck of the Air National Guard and rushed to the scene of the crash. The aircraft was burning severely when T/SGT Simmons arrived and despite the imminent possibility of gasoline tank explosion, T/SGT Simmons, without benefit of protective clothing, climbed on the burning wing of the aircraft and subdued the blazing wing and fuselage. Such heroic action undoubtedly saved the lives of at least ten severely injured soldiers who were unable to help themselves. Such actions reflect great credit on T/SGT Simmons, The Air National Guard, and the United States Air Force.

    ---
     
  • T/SGT Walter Carter
    Headquarters
    123rd Fighter Bomber Wing
    Standiford Field (ANG)
    Kentucky Air National Guard
    Louisville, Kentucky

    28 September 1953
    On 28 September 1953, at Standiford Field, Louisville, Kentucky, T/SGT Walter Carter (then in a civilian Air Technician capacity as a member of the Alert Crew of the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard) distinguished himself as follows: At 1617 hours, this date, a civilian resort airline aircraft chartered to the Army, carrying a total of forty-one (41) soldiers and crewmen, most of whom were returning Korean veterans, crashed while landing. There is no fire fighting or crash rescue facilities at Standiford Field and T/SGT Carter immediately manned the "155" fire fighting truck of the Air National Guard and rushed to the scene of the crash. The aircraft was burning severely when T/SGT Carter arrived and despite the imminent possibility of gasoline tank explosion, T/SGT Carter, without benefit of protective clothing, climbed on the burning wing of the aircraft and subdued the blazing wing and fuselage. Such heroic action undoubtedly saved the lives of at least ten severely injured soldiers who were unable to help themselves. Such actions reflect great credit on T/SGT Carter, The Air National Guard, and the United States Air Force.

    ---
     
  • T/SGT Howard Arthur Curtis
    Headquarters
    123rd Fighter Bomber Wing
    Standiford Field (ANG)
    Kentucky Air National Guard
    Louisville, Kentucky

    28 September 1953
    On 28 September 1953, at Standiford Field, Louisville, Kentucky, T/SGT Howard A. Curtis (then in a civilian Air Technician capacity as a member of the Alert Crew of the 123rd Fighter Bomber Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard) distinguished himself as follows: At 1617 hours, this date, a civilian resort airline aircraft chartered to the Army, carrying a total of forty-one (41) soldiers and crewmen, most of whom were returning Korean veterans, crashed while landing. T/SGT Curtis immediately manned the Air National Guard crash ambulance and rushed to the scene of the crash. The aircraft was burning severely upon his arrival, but despite the imminent possibility of explosion, T/SGT Curtis, without benefit of protective clothing, proceeded to assist in the rescue of injured and dying passengers. His quick action and disregard for personal safety were responsible for the saving of many lives. T/SGT Curtis' courage, initiative and devotion to duty reflect great credit upon himself, The Air National Guard, and the United States Air Force.

[KWE Note: Howard Arthur Curtis died April 17, 1999.]


In Memoriam

Bush, Dorothy Jean "Sue"

One of the 19 initial survivors of the crash, Miss Bush, age 22 of Miami, Florida (and a DuBois, Pennsylvania native) died the next day.  Her leg was nearly severed in the crash.  Her parents managed to get to the hospital prior to their daughter's passing, but she never regained consciousness.

She was a daughter of Lewis Grant Bush (1900-1965) and Miriam Jeanette Reichert Bush (1902-1972), and the sister of Mrs. Charles Bert (Louise Bush) Davis of Bluefield, West Virginia. Dorothy Jean was known as "Sissy Sue" by her family.  A member of the Presbyterian church of DuBois, she graduated from the high school in DuBois in 1949 and went to work for Resort Airlines out of Miami.  She was engaged to be married at the time of her death.  Sue and her parents are buried in McVille Union Cemetery, McVille, Pennsylvania. 

Moller, Wharton Emil "Stretch"

Captain Moller was a son of the late Virgil E. Moller and Mrs. Gertrude Shaffner Moller (1896-1989) of Texas, and the brother of Mrs. Arthur David (Doris) Sherron and William Elmer "Bill" Moller of Texas City.  He was married to Doris Marie "Dee" Pederson in 1942.  She was a teacher in a Brownsville school at the time of his death.  Captain Moller was a fighter pilot and member of the Masonic organization.  The couple had one daughter, Cherie.  She is now Mrs. James (Cherie Rash-Carrabba) Bright, of Crockett, Texas.  Cherie was six years old at the time of the crash.

Pickel, John DeWitt

Captain Pickel was a son of Leonard S. Pickel (1875-1961) and Etta R. Pickel (1883-1960).  He was born in 1921 and is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Scotch Plains, New Jersey.  His brother, Robert Daniel "Pete" Pickel, returned home from Madrid, Spain to attend Captain Pickel's funeral.  John graduated from Plainfield High School in New Jersey in June of 1939.  He was awarded a scholarship to Cornell University, where he studied mechanical engineering and later aeronautical engineering.  His brother Pete attended Cornell at the same time.

 
 
 
 

Close this window
 

2002-2016 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address: www.koreanwar-educator.org
 

Hit Counter