TWA Flight 3 (1-16-42)

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.

Heard explosion

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.

Horsemen used

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.

He said:

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.

A dream came true –
Flier fulfills hopes of child

Pilot killed in crash gave Illinois boy ride in '30

It was one day in 1930.

Captain Wayne Williams, who was at the controls of the ill-fated TWA plane that crashed last night near Las Vegas, Nev., was flying the airmail then, blazing sky-paths across the Midwest.

And every day as he flew over, a little nine-year-old youngster would stand on his father’s farm at Pawnee, Ill., and wave at Captain Williams.

’That’s Jimmy’

The youngster would tell his mother:

That’s Jimmy Donnally.

…referring to his storybook pilot hero.

Someday he’s going to land here and take me for a ride in his airplane.

Night after night, the youngster – Charles Castle was his name – said his prayer in hope that “Jimmy Donnally” would swoop down and pick him up.

He even sat down and scrawled off a letter:

Dear Jimmy:

I see you go over every day in your airplane. Some day won’t you come down and take me up in the sky with you? I want to fly like you.

And the day wasn’t far off, either. For on a bright sunny day in 1930, “Jimmy Donnally” – Captain Wayne Williams, in real life – thundered low over the peaceful quiet of Pawnee and set the big mail carrier down on the municipal “airfield.”

Little Charles cried:

It’s Jimmy. It’s Jimmy.

And screaming as a child never did even for Santa Claus, Charles Castle went tearing as fast as his little legs could carry him into the arms of Captain Williams – and the billowy clouds overhead.

Brought him fame

The little favor which he played for a child hero-worshipper brought Captain Williams nationwide fame, but even by then he had stamped himself as one of America’s leading airmail and commercial pilots.

Captain Williams was a veteran flier of 14 year’s experience and formerly flew the Kansas City-New York route through Pittsburgh for TWA.

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Sales record won by Miss Lombard


Washington (UP) –
A Treasury spokesman today credited Carole Lombard with being instrumental in bringing about the largest recorded sales of defense savings bonds.

He said Miss Lombard journeyed from Hollywood to Indianapolis early this week to star in the first of a series of rallies to promote sales of defense stamps and bonds, and that $2 million worth of bonds were sold as a result.

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Auto crash almost ended Carole’s career in '20s

Comedy actress made male fans goggle-eyed with she played as Mack Sennett beauty

Hollywood, Jan. 17 (UP) –
The world knew her as Carole Lombard. Her friends called her “Pete.” Her husband called her “Queen.” But she was born Jane Peters, in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Oct. 6, 1908.

She dropped the “Peters,” added an “e” to Carol and substituted “Lombard” because she thought it sounded more like a movie actress.

Legend says Miss Lombard took the advice of a numerologist when she added that final “e,” but she always uttered raucous laughs when accused of consorting with soothsayers.

At any rate, her greatest successes came after that one little letter was added to her name.

Played in 'hoss operas’

As one of Mack Sennett’s bathing beauties, she made the male movie fans look goggle-eyed. As a rip-snorting queen of the horse opera, she took many a potshot at the Injuns and found herself rescued from fates worse than death more times than she liked to remember.

In the '20s, when safety glass was only an idea in the head of an engineer, she figured in an auto wreck which sent slivers of glass into her face and almost disfigured her permanently. Plastic surgery finally removed every scar.

In 1931, when the moviemakers looked upon her as a dramatic actress, she married Bill Powell. She was still his wife a year later when she met Clark Gable, who was cast as one of her leading men.

Launched craze

1934 was a historic date for the fast-talking Carole. She launched with Twentieth Century the craze, which has never died, for screwball movie comedies. Then she made My Man Godfrey and Nothing Sacred and found herself earning $150,000 for every picture.

She divorced Mr. Powell on the conventional charges of mental cruelty and on March 29, 1939, she married Mr. Gable who already had that one bedroom house built to her specifications. She furnished it with easy chairs and ankle deep rugs and a bathroom lined with mirrors. In this country home, she spent most of her spare time, while M. G. tinkered in the barn with his temperamental tractor.

Took hunting trips

Between pictures, they took hunting trips, wasted entirely too much energy denying they were about to be divorced, and managed to live the most normal lives possible in abnormal Hollywood.

Her death came as a personal loss to hundreds of Hollywoodians, from electricians to L. B. Mayer and from studio hairdressers to every newspaperman in town. Nobody here ever had known a girl with such energy as hers, nor talked with a woman who spoke so frankly on any subject, profane or otherwise.

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Passenger list, crew members in plane wreck

Las Vegas, Nev. Jan. 17 (UP) –
Passengers aboard the airliner which crashed last night were:

  • Gable, Mrs. Clark (Carole Lombard), Hollywood.
  • Hamilton, Lois, Detroit, Mich.
  • Peters, Mrs. Elizabeth (Mrs. Gable’s mother), Hollywood.
  • Winkler, Otto (movie press agent), Hollywood.
  • Crouch, Robert E. (1st Lt.)
  • Browne, Hal Jr. (1st Lt.)
  • Barham, James C. (2nd Lt.)
  • Swenson, Stuart L. (2nd Lt.)
  • Donahue, K. P. (2nd Lt.)
  • Nelson, Charles D. (2nd Lt.)
  • Nygren, Edgar A. (SSgt.)
  • Nygren, Robert F. (SSgt.)
  • Cook, Frederick P. (Sgt.), Reidsville, NC
  • Tellkamp, Martin W. (Pvt.), Lamoille, Ill.
  • Varsamine, Nicholas (Pvt.), Bronx, NY
  • Tilgham, David C. (SSgt.), Snow Hill, Md.
  • Affrime, Milton B. (Cpl.), Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Belejchak, Albert M. (SSgt.)


  • Williams, W. C., pilot.
  • Gillette, Morgan A., co-pilot.
  • Getz, Miss Alice F., hostess.
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Stars mourn Carole’s death

’Hard-talking’ actress by filmland
By Frederick C. Othman, United Press staff writer

Hollywood, Jan. 17 –
The death of Carole Lombard, girl of the hard-boiled chatter and the tender heart, in the fiery wreckage of a transport plane saddened the soundstages today and caused many a fellow performer to weep.

No other current actress was so universally beloved; the death of no other glamor girl since Jean Harlow had such a profound effect on the moviemakers, sentimentalists all.

Clark Gable, her husband of three years, was waiting at the Los Angeles Airport last night for her to arrive with her mother, Mrs. Jane Peters, and their friend and press agent, Otto Winkler, from a defense bond-selling expedition to Indianapolis.

Gable charters plane

Attendants told Gable the plane would be delayed. He returned to the ranch home he built for his bride in the San Fernando Valley, only to hear the worst. Then he rushed blindly from the house, raced back to the airport and chartered a plane for Las Vegas, Nev., even as two officials of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hastened to catch up with him.

Hollywood – its sentiment is traditional – has suffered many another blow, but it seemed none could compare with the sorrow generated by Miss Lombard’s death.

There was Rudy Valentino, but his legion of mourners was recruited principally from his faithful fans. Hollywood, in those days, was small and remote and divided and unsocial.

Other deaths recalled

There was Marie Dressler. Her passing was not sudden and it brought her relief from a long and painful ailment.

There was the vivacious Thelma Todd, victim of carbon monoxide poisoning.

There was Jean Harlow. Her death, it seemed to Hollywood, would be mourned forever, for Jean, like Carole, was another of those who are known as “good guys” in the profession.

And there was Will Rogers. Circumstances surrounding his death added to the universal sorrow. Rogers had captured not only the heart, but the intellects, of the world and his death in remote Alaska brought many a heartache.

Respected by all

Miss Lombard was not only loved but was respected as a straight-shooter. Every property boy, every commissary waitress adored her for she had the common touch, the common speech and never for a minute forgot that they were fellow workers.

She was thoughtful, considerable, always joyous and bouncing, full of pranks and risqué stories.

She and Gable made the finest married team in Hollywood.

Since their wedding they had spent every possible minute together. They hunted in Mexico. They shot quail in South Dakota. They spent long hours on the ranch, with its white brick house which contained only one bedroom – because Carole didn’t like house guests.

When America declared war on Germany and Japan, Hollywood’s gayest, laughingest actress emerged from temporary retirement.

She did it not because she needed the money, but so that her income taxes, based upon a salary of $400,000 a year, could help pay for the fray.

She was the movie beauty who startled the town a couple of years ago by announcing that she paid her taxes with a smile on the theory that she was buying a sizeable interest in what she liked to call:

…the best damned land there is.

She felt the war made her tax payments even more necessary.

Her latest picture, completed just before she went to Indiana to sell more than $2 million worth of defense bonds and still to come from the cutting room is a farce comedy concerning her troubles with Jack Benny, the great Shakespearian actor, in occupied Poland.

The picture is the first to poke fun at the Nazis.

The Pittsburgh Press (January 18, 1942)

Carole Lombard, 21 other victims found in airliner

Bodies charred; death of wife stuns Gable

Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 17 (UP) –
Mountain climbers today found the charred bodies of Carole Lombard and 21 other persons who perished in the head-on crash of a TWA skyliner into the sheer face of Table Rock Mountain.

600 feet below the rugged summit, the ruins of the big silver ship lay crumbled like a folding ruler in a gully.

Above on the rock face of the cliff, was a telltale smudge which showed where the plane has struck, probably at nearly 200 miles an hour, and burst into a flaming explosion which hurled the bodies of occupants hundreds of yards.

Death instantaneous

Death for all – the movie star, her mother and her press agent, another woman passenger, 15 U.S. Army airmen and the plane’s crew – must have been instantaneous.

A member of the searching party of Indians, miners and soldiers who clambered down the mountainside to break the news to Miss Lombard’s husband, Clark Gable, said gasoline and surrounding pine trees had flared in a monstrous funeral pyre after the crash.

He said the bodies were charred so badly as to be unrecognizable.

The blonde movie star was flying home from a speech at Indianapolis in which she boosted sales of defense bonds and stamps. She was born at Fort Wayne, Ind., as Jane Peters 33 years ago.

Coin toss decided trip

She had tossed a coin with her press agent, Otto Winkler, to determine whether they and her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters, should fly or take a train. Tails won; they flew, Miss Lombard eager to return to the big blue-chinned movie idol whom she knew as “Pappy.”

Mr. Gable was waiting at the Los Angeles Airport when told there was a delay. The officials told him the plane had crashed. He flew at once in a chartered Western Air Express plane to Las Vegas and started into the snowclad slopes clad in polo coat and oxfords.

Hardy mountain men who had ripped their shoes to shreds in the night’s search shook their heads. There were no horses because experienced posse men had taken them.

Gable waits for hours

Nearly frantic with anxiety, Mr. Gable returned to El Rancho Vegas to wait hour after hour for word to come down – word which must inevitably confirm the tragedy. He had been told how the plane was seen bobbing precariously and that a huge flame had been seen near the peaks.

Red-eyed and unshaven, he paced interminably, refusing to rest. Finally he rushed up in the foothills by station wagon, hoping to hasten the message.

He returned after a short time, however, and was at the hotel when a message from the mountain ended his doubts.

The note was handed to Don McElwaine, studio official and Mr. Gable looked up.

Bad news?

Mr. McElwaine replied:

I’m afraid it’s hopeless.

Mr. Gable moaned:

Oh God.

Stretcher parties formed

Mr. McElwaine asked him:

What are you going to do?

Mr. Gable shook himself as of to shoulder away the shock and replied that he would remain here until the bodies were brought down. Members of the searching party said that difficult and dangerous task might take days.

Stretcher parties were organized immediately to bring out the bodies. Dangerous and slow work this must be, for only Alpine climbing methods enabled the searchers to reach the wreck.

Word which came down the mountain was that those in the plane might have had a moment’s realization of calamity before their lives were blotted out. The four-motored craft had glanced off a rocky crag, then blasted nose first into the Peak.

Wreckage fell into two large piles, igniting stands of pine and melting the deep snow for yards around.

The plane was found at 10 a.m. (1 p.m. EST).

The big transport crashed into the Charleston range 20 miles west of here about 7:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. EST) Friday night shortly after it left Las Vegas on the final leg of a transcontinental flight from New York to Los Angeles.

15 of the passengers were pilot officers and enlisted personnel of the U.S. Army Ferry Command who were returning to their base at Long Beach. Cal. The ship’s three-man crew headed by an experienced pilot, W. C. Williams.

Miners in the vicinity of the crash reported hearing a tremendous explosion and later saw a huge fire. Flames were also seen from a Western Air Express plane flying over the mountains.

Airplane 'bobbed’

Willard George, a Los Angeles furrier living on a ranch near the scene, saw the big plane “bobbing” in a peculiar fashion.

The ship left Las Vegas at dusk, heading for Los Angeles 275 miles away over a course that was unlighted except for an occasional beacon marking the route.

The scaling party included a 75-year-old Indian guide, Twee Wilson, who has spent his life on the mountains. Army officers had ordered big trucks and “jeeps” into the area.

Miss Lombard was the first film personage to die in an airplane accident since Will Rogers was killed at Point Barrow, Alaska, with Wiley Post on Aug. 15, 1935.

The Pittsburgh Press (January 19, 1942)

Dental charts identify body of Carole; Gable stays in seclusion at Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 19 (UP) –
The broken body of screen actress Carole Lombard, killed with 21 others in the crash of a transport plane Friday night, was prepared for shipment to Hollywood today in the custody of her grim-faced husband, Clark Gable.

Only by using dental charts, flown to Las Vegas from Hollywood, could authorities identify the crushed, burned body of the blonde actress. Mountain climbers and soldiers recovered it yesterday from a snowbank beneath the torn wing of the Transcontinental & Western Airlines plane, which smashed into the steep cliff of a mountain peak.

Miss Lombard’s body and eight others, still unidentified, were wrapped in Army blankets and raised with ropes up the face of the 400-foot cliff. They were carried by horses to the mountain community of Goodsprings and taken down the mountainside in Army ambulances.

Mr. Gable remained in seclusion at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel last night and did not attend the inquest held to clear the way for the return of his wife’s body to Hollywood.

A coroner’s jury held the inquest in connection with Miss Lombard’s death in the rice-strewn basement office of Justice of the Peace Mahlon Brown, the “marryin’ justice” of Las Vegas. The jury reported that the actress died:

…of injuries received in the crash of a TWA airliner en route from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, near “Double-or-Nothing” Mountain.

Eddie Mannix and Ralph Wheelwright, of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio, identified Miss Lombard’s body at the inquest. Strands of the actress’ blonde hair and letters from her purse confirmed the identification made with the dental charts.

Funeral plans for Miss Lombard were indefinite, pending identification and return of the body of her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, another victim of the crash. Burial will be at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where Jean Harlow, Will Rogers, Marie Dressler and other Hollywood celebrities were buried.

Miss Lombard’s body was the only one of the nine recovered to be identified last night. Tentative identification of Mrs. Peters rested on papers found in a purse.

Guards were posted at the wreck during the night awaiting the return of rescue workers to the peak to recover remains of others who died in the crash.

Three Civil Aeronautics Authority inspectors went to the wreck yesterday and began their official investigation. They declined to comment on their findings and said they would return today for further study. The trio included Frank Caldwell, chief of the CAA safety bureau; Jack Parshall, Kansas City and Peery Hodgeden, Oakland.

Jack Benny, who co-starred with Miss Lombard in the comedy To Be Or Not to Be, which was finished 10 days ago, canceled his weekly radio show last night out of respect to Miss Lombard’s memory.

The Pittsburgh Press (January 20, 1942)

Gable to accompany wife’s body to coast

Las Vegas, Nev., Jan. 20 (UP) –
Clark Gable planned to return to Hollywood with the crushed body of his wife, Carole Lombard, today after identification of the body of the film actress’ mother.

Mr. Gable’s film studio associates said a double funeral would be held tomorrow or Thursday for Miss Lombard and her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Peters, both victims of an airline crash in which 22 were killed.

Mr. Gable received many messages of condolence and was reported “deeply moved” by a telegram from President Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, bodies of 15 officers and enlisted men of the Army Ferry Command were being carried here from Double-or-Nothing Peak. The last of the bodies were lifted up a cliff yesterday from the wreckage of the Transcontinental & Western Airline plane.


American mood

By Florence Fisher Parry

I hope that what I am about to say will not be distorted by my critics, whom I remind that I have consistently supported the movies and their people for many, many years.

I have a deep affection for them and have unfailingly defended them and have never begrudged the worship screen stars have had from their fans. It has always seemed to me that they deserve it. Their careers are tragically short, their “fame” spasmodic and uncertain; their lives of necessity, synthetic and unreal. They are raised to pinnacles and dashed into oblivion.

One of these creatures of fortune was Carole Lombard. Her death is an incomputable loss. Her beauty, her glamor, her talents; above all, her good sportsmanship, made her passing a tragic and a bitter thing; and who shall deny her death its claim to the news spotlight? To her American fans, Carole Lombard was the very epitome of their dreams, ease, wealth, fame, beauty – all hers, the Cinderella incarnate! They were too old to believe in fairies or Santa Claus. This was a kind of adult fairy story they COULD believe in thus did they manage to preserve their childishness and keep on believing the old impossible dreams!

Small wonder then that the death of this other-world creature swept the country up into a brief and childish hysteria of grief as excessive as it was unrelated to the grim reality of war.

There was something bizarre… almost frightening… in this exhibition of sensationalism. It seemed incredible that the people of this country, plunged as we are in a life-and-death struggle for survival let no man call is less, could let ourselves exhibit such disproportionate emotions!


WE ARE AT WAR. WE NEED EVERY TRAINED FLIER. Fifteen of these airmen, most of them officers, died in the crash that killed Carole Lombard. Look at the newspaper headlines. What about them? Our sons, lovers, husbands?

You blame the newspapers? That is as silly as it is unfair. The newspapers are purveyors to the public. It was not the newspapers, it was THE PUBLIC, that headlined and sensationalized Carole Lombard’s death, almost to the exclusion of other aspects of the tragedy.

Did you watch the reading public grab the newspapers? Did you watch the radio audiences tune in to the news broadcasts? Did you listen to the talk along the sidewalks and at the table of every home?

If ever we were handed a capsule of the American mood, THIS WAS IT. Carole Lombard, to the American rank and file, was more important than any other fact, INCLUDING the war.

We have a long way to go before we can be said to be primed for this war. We are still living in the smug, soft-padded dream of yesterday. We are still thinking of our American way of life in terms of the movies. The basic values are coated over with sugar and sensationalism.

At least to those whom this war has not touched yet.

Oh, I dare say there were plenty of people who brushed by the news of Carole Lombard’s death and searched the list of casualties for dear names on their own.

Oh, I dare say there were plenty of us who thought first, of the mangled charred bodies of 15 youths in uniform, the face of each duplicating the features of our own sons.

Oh, I dare say there was many a stern face, bent over maps and blueprints, whose minds were insensate enough to the name Carole Lombard, and who were thinking only in terms of sabotage and bitter shortages.

We needed those 15 pilots.

We needed that transport.

Oh yes, there were many who thought these thoughts, thoughts far removed from Hollywood.

But by and large, no.


The American mood possessed the continent. A movie star, beautiful and successful, had been killed! And yet who will wonder about Singapore and Corregidor and the drowning seamen on the Atlantic waters?

Oh, what a long way we have to go before the impact of this war will jolt us from our old conditionings!

We are still in the same old delusory rut. We still think that we can have our cake, iced and with candles, and eat it too.

They are talking now in terms of an army of eight million men. Ten million men. One out of every 13 persons in the whole United States. We haven’t just a WPA project on our hands, we have a global war; already its icy hand has touched every man, woman and child in the world. Including US. Including US.

But millions of us are still playing bridge and golf and taking Red Cross and air wardening in a kind of grand-scale tea-party stride. War, it’s wonderful!

Poor we. Poor soft we.

The old, old delusory habit of thinking we can commiserate it away, this specter, this stern angel of death, with a sword in her hand, her eyes fixed upon us, upon each one of us.

Not peace but a sword.

Yes, we have had our last sensation, in the death of Carole Lombard.

Henceforth, it will be the real thing, or we perish from the earth.

The Pittsburgh Press (July 5, 1942)

Lombard air crash called pilot’s fault

Washington, July 4 (UP) –
A House Committee tonight blamed pilot “negligence” for the crash of a Transcontinental & Western Airlines plane last winter in which actress Carole Lombard and 21 other persons were killed.

The pilot, Captain Wayne Williams – who had once been discharged by TWA for alleged carelessness and later reinstated by order of the National Labor Relations Board – failed to fly at the prescribed night course altitude, the committee found.

As a result, the plane, bound for Los Angeles from Albuquerque, NM, crashed into a mountainside southwest of Las Vegas, Nev., killing all aboard.

The report was issued by a committee headed by Rep. Jack Nichols (D-OK), set up to investigate air accidents.