Democrat Arkansas 1936-01-15
W. R. DYESS, WPA ADMINISTRATOR, ONE OF VICTIMS IN WORST TRAGEDY IN AMERICAN AIR
PARTS OF WRECKAGE OF PASSENGER PLANE STREWN FOR 400 YARDS IN SWAMP; REMNANTS OF
FOUR WOMEN LOSE LIVES
SCENE OF DISASTER REACHED HOURS AFTER SHIP OVERDUE FROM MEMPHIS TO LITTLE ROCK;
CHILD ALSO AMONG PASSENGER VICTIMS.
Goodwin, Ark., Jan. 15 -- (AP) -- Remnants of 17 bodies -- victims of
American's most disastrous airplane catastrophe -- were recovered today from
Arkansas march country where they crashed to death last night in "The
Southerner," American Airlines luxurious transcontinental ship. There were no survicors. Coroner J. C. CRAWFORD following an inquest on the
scene, held that the 17 passengers -- 12 men, four women and a child -- died
"by accidental airplane crash." A department of commerce official
predicted cause of the disaster probably never would be known. Last of the bodies were brought out of the swampland area at 8:45 A.M. on
flat-bed wagons, drawn by mules which had difficulty making the trip. All
bodies were removed to a Memphis funeral home where it was hoped that definite
identification could be made. Rescue workers, still assembling bits of bodies strewn over an area 400 yards
long and about 75 yards wide in a water-filled bog, did not attempt to clear
the wreckage pending arrival of JACK JANES, Forth Worth division airline
inspector for the department of commerce.
Wreckage Located At Midnight.
The liner crashed early last night on the Memphis-Little Rock hop of the
regular New York-Los Angeles flight. Searching parties did not locate the
wreckage until midnight, finding plane and bodies torn to bits as the big liner
settled down over a woodland, then crashed through a dense growth of trees in
the midst of the swamp.
Among the victims was W. R. DYESS, Works Progress administrator for Arkansas;
and FRANK C. HART, wealthy New Yorker, president of the Hartol Products
The passenger list given out by the company at Fort Worth follows:
CHARLES ALTSCHUL, 340 north Central, Glendale, Calif.
J. C. CAHN, 827 south Pimpau Blvd., Los Angeles.
MRS. S. HOROWITZ, MRS. B. HOROWITZ and SEBA HOROWITZ, all of Walcott Road,
W. R. DYESS, 101 Ridgeway, Little Rock, Ark.
R. H. McNAIR, JR., 314 South Balman street, Little Rock, Ark.
MRS. J. S. GREMILLION, Knoxville, Tenn.
F. C. HART, 630 Fifth Avenue, New York.
W. S. HARDWICKE, Beardstown, Illinois.
A. D. CHERNUS, Beardstown, Illinois.
N. PORTER, Third and Lehigh streets, Philadelphia.
HENRY W. FLATO, JR., of Laredo, Texas.
SAM SCHWARTZ, Apollo Hotel, Atlantic City, N. J.
Inquest Knee-Deep in Water.
One of the strangest inquests ever held was converned at the side of the
splintered ship before dawn when J. C. CRAWFORD, aged, crippled coroner, was
carried tortuously on a stretcher through the swamps to the scene to hold it. CRAWFORD was held aloft on the stretcher by four men, standing waist-deep in
water, as he examined the bits of bodies, heard two farmers who said they saw
the plane fall and made notes in a small book by the light of lanterns. On the stretchers, the parts of bodies which had been recovered from the
mud-thick water were carried before him and with the assistance of CECIL WEST,
of the Little Rock airport, who held a passenger list, attempts were made at
identification. The coroner asserted he believed he had viewed the parts of 17 bodies, 13
remaining insufficiently identified to be checked from the passenger list.
The body-remnants were placed on stretchers, covered with whatever covering was
available in the heart of the marsh. The only conveyance which had any success in prenetrating the swampy
undergrowth early today was a shaky farm wagon, drawn by two mules, which
managed to get within 500 yards of the wreckage after bogging down many times. It was held for use in the event no better method of getting the bodies out to
the highway, a mile and a quarter away, was found.
Farmers Tell of Seeing Descent.
Two farmers happened before Coroner CRAWFORD'S swampland inquest to tell of
seeing the plane descend into the woods shortly before 7:30 p.m., last night.
GAYLORD DOVER, of Palestine, Ark., testified he was walking along highway 70 --
Broadway of America route usually followed by the transcontinental ships
through Arkansas -- when he saw the regular evening passenger liner flying
rather low over the adjacent woods. "The motor didn't sound right," he said. "Suddenly the plane
dropped down into the trees. The motor quit, and the ship disappeared in the
GLENN WILLIAMSON, also of Palestine, said he was sitting in his home reading
when he heard the plane overhead. He testified he heard "the motor
sputter," and looked out a window. "I saw it dip into the timber and crash," he said. Both DOVER and WILLIAMSON gave the alarm and then joined searching parties.
Postal officials from Little Rock this morning gathered up what they could of
the mail scattered through the woods and after weighing it said they thought
all of it had been recovered.
GERALD V. MARSHALL, 40, veteran pilot, with the company since 1928, and with
9,400 flying hours under his helmit, was in charge of the ship. The co-pilot
was GLENN FREELAND, former manager of a Joplin, Mo., airport. MISS PERLA
GASPARINI, of Fort Worth, stewardess, completes the crew of "The
Mud-plastered searchers who found the plane wreckage after hours of stumbling
through the marsh with flashlights, brought word of the find to Goodwin, said
the plane was "all to pieces." "The plane and the bodies are scattered all over the place," M. E.
DAVIS, one of the party which found the plane told the Associated Press as soon
as he could reach a telephone. "I do not believe it would be possible to
definitely identify more than three or four of the dead." He had heard there was a child on board the plane -- SEBA HOROWITZ of Boston --
and he said: "I found the child's shoes, near the motors, but not the body."
Left Newark Yesterday at 12:30 p.m.
The plane, a Douglas twin-motor, left Newark airport yesterday at 12:30 p.m.,
making the usual stops at Washington and points south, taking on and letting
Pilot WALTER HUNTER brought the ship from Newark to Memphis, President SMITH of
the airline said. "At Memphis," said SMITH, "Pilot HUNTER reported that the
airplane was in excellent flying shape and that both motors were functioning
fine. At Memphis, the airplane was taken by Pilot MARSHALL, Co-Pilot GREELAND,
and Stewardess GASPARINI.
"At Nashville, gasoline had been taken aboard and the airplane left
Nashville with 410 gallons, an amount sufficient to take it to Little Rock or
Dallas." "Pilot MARSHALL departed from Memphis westbound at 7:03 p.m. At 7:18, he
reported to Memphis by radio that he was flying at 2,000 feet, 35 miles west of
Memphis and that the weather was good and visibility 15 miles." "After the 7:18 contact, no further information was received from the
Hop From Memphis to Little Rock Only 55 Minutes.
The hop from Memphis to Little Rock is only 55 minutes and when the plane was
nearly an hour overdue at the latter point and not further radio messages had
been received, the company authorized searching parties to start out from both
Memphis and Little Rock. Subsequently, as time passed, the airlines dispatched
five ambulances to Brinkley, near here, announcing the action as "a
precautionary measure." A group of airline officials who flew to the area from Fort Worth reported by
radio at 12:30 a.m., shortly after the finding of the plane was announced by
the Associated Press, that they had sighted the wreckage from the air, deep in
the swamps. At that time, it was disclosed later, Gen. Supt. HUGH SMITH of Fort Worth,
aboard the searching plane, told his home office by radio that "probably
all of the crew and passengers had been seriously injured or killed." J. W. FOGG, farmer, who was emerging from the swamp with the ground search crew
said grimly: "They're all dead. You can't believe the damage. The plane - what is left
of it - is buried in five feet of mud and water.