The Pittsburgh Press (January 17, 1942)
Carole Lombard, 21 others die in crash of flaming transport
15 Army aviators aboard; film star’s mother and press agent victims
Career ends in mountain crash
Miss Carole Lombard, the movie star, was among the 21 persons aboard a Transcontinental & Western Airlines plane which exploded and crashed into a Nevada mountain last night.
Las Vegas, Nevada (UP) –
Film star Carole Lombard and 21 other persons were believed to have been killed last night when a Transcontinental & Western Airlines plane crashed into Table Rock Mountain.
15 of the passengers were pilot officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. Army Ferry Command returning to their West Coast bases.
Among the victims were Staff Sgt. Edgar A. Nygren and Sgt. Robert F. Nygren, whose home addresses were given as Route 1, Dunbar, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and Staff Sgt. Albert M. Belejacbak, 706 Main St., Braddock, Pennsylvania.
Miss Lombard’s husband, Clark Gable, flew here in private plane and joined searching squads at the foot of the Table Mountain on the eastern slope of Death Valley.
Los Angeles offices of TWA said pilot Art Cheney of Western Air Express, who flew over Table Rock Mountain shortly after the crash, had reported to them he saw flames on the slopes, and believed it was the TWA plane.
Accompanied by mother
The actress was accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, and her press agent, Otto Winkler, a studio representative of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which held her contract. They boarded the plane yesterday at Indianapolis, where Miss Lombard had participated in a defense bond sales campaign.
The plane crashed about 20 miles west of here at 7:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. EST) a few minutes after it had left Las Vegas on the last leg of a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles, 300 miles west of here.
Miners in the vicinity said they heard the plane explode with a thunderous roar. Flames from the burning wreckage could be seen for miles.
O. E. Saylor, purchasing agent at the Blue Diamond Lead Mine, said he heard the plane overhead a few minutes after it left Las Vegas. He said:
Then we heard an explosion and saw the plane afire against the mountain.
D. Houston, an employee at the mine, said he failed to hear the crash but joined other onlookers five minutes later and still could see the glow against the mountain.
Clark County police officers recruited Tweed Wilson, septuagenarian Indian, to aid in the search. Army officers ordered trucks and “jeeps” into the area.
The scene of the crash was almost inaccessible. A dozen horsemen and a powerful tractor were pressed into service.
The snow-covered mountain is an 8,000-foot elevation at the lower end of the Charleston Range, which separates Nevada from Death Valley. It rises almost 5,000 feet from the valley on either side.
Willard George, Los Angeles furrier who owns the ranch where Tweed Wilson works, said he saw the plane passing in the twilight and that its tail appeared to be bobbing up and down in a peculiar manner.
It seemed to be out of control for a time as though someone was fighting in the cockpit.
Crashed near beacon
A few minutes after the plane passed from view, it crashed against the mountain not far from a beacon marking its course.
Major H. W. Anderson, executive officer of the Air Corps Gunnery School at McCarran Field, was in charge of the searching party. Because of the rugged terrain, it was believed it would be several hours before the party reached the scene.
The transport left Las Vegas just at dusk and was apparently behind schedule. The course from Las Vegas to Los Angeles is not lighted, although beacons mark the path.
The airline reported only one civilian passenger, Lois Hamilton of Detroit, in addition to the three Hollywood residents, aboard the plane.
Members of the crew included:
- Pilot W. C. Williams,
- Co-pilot Morgan A. Gillette,
- Miss Alice F. Getz, hostess.