United Airlines Flight 4 (5-1-42)

The Pittsburgh Press (May 2, 1942)

17 die as plane rams peak in storm

All well, airliner pilot radios – then he crashes near Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, May 2 (UP) –
Seventeen shattered bodies were removed today from a wreckage of a United Airlines Mainliner which crashed into Ensign Peak, near the Utah State Capitol, during a rain and sleet storm.

All aboard the plane – 13 adult passengers, a one-year-old boy and the crew of three – were killed.

The plane, piloted by Captain Don Brown of San Francisco, hit 300 feet from the top of the peak as it circled in preparation to land at the Salt Lake City Airport, seven miles away, on its journey from San Francisco to New York.

Crashes in Wasatches

It smashed into the north side of the peak, which juts from the other airlines crashes within the last five years have taken 61 lives.

Robert Pearson, who ran to the scene immediately after the crash, reported that one of the male passengers lived for about 20 minutes but was injured so badly he was unable to talk.

Mr. Pearson heard the plane’s motors shortly before the crash and said the plane:

… seemed to be in trouble.

P. A. Larson, who also lived in a residential area near the capitol, agreed.

A brilliant fire rated after the plane hit but it was soon extinguished by the rain and sleet.

Cause undetermined

The rain made travel up the muddy, brush-covered mountainside difficult, and a huge, 10-wheeled Army truck was used to remove the bodies.

Experienced pilots, awaiting the arrival of official investigators, could not explain the cause of the accident.

In Washington, the Civil Aeronautics Board ordered four investigators to the scene of the crash.

The plane left San Francisco at 7:15 (9:15 p.m. EWT) last night and was due here at 9:50 p.m. Captain Brown radioed at 10:56 p.m. that he was preparing to land and that he was no having no trouble. He reported he was 10 miles north of the airport, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet on a radio navigation beam that would have carried him to the landing field.

He radioed that visibility was nine miles in spite of the storm and pilots said that was a safe visibility range. But nothing more was heard from the plane. Some reports indicated it may have crashed at 11:01, five minutes after its last radio contact.

Wreckage scattered

The plane was almost demolished.

Its wreckage was scattered over a wide area of the muddy mountain slope. One wing was leaning against a tree and a motor had been thrown 150 feet. The second motor was still attached to a wing.

Bodies were lying among the twisted parts if the plane. All were badly burned.

The crash was the first for United Airlines since one of its planes missed the Chicago Airport and fell in a street Dec. 4, 1940.

United Airlines officials said the company had completed 17 months of safe operation prior to last night’s accident. United was awarded the 1941 safety certificate by the National Safety Council.

Victims of airplane crash listed

Salt Lake City, May 2 (UP) –
Those killed in the crash of a United Airlines Mainliner last night:


  • Lt. Cdr. J. G. Burrows, USN (en route to Washington, DC)
  • C. M. Cole, San Francisco (affiliated with International Business Machines, Inc.)
  • R. P. Barrett, soldier (en route to Cleveland)
  • C. R. Drenk, Fruitvale, Cal. (en route to Cleveland)
  • Lt. Herman J. Frankenburg, USA, Wichita, Kan.
  • Armond D. Herg, care of Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Julius Kershisnik, Cheyenne, Wyo.
  • Mrs. J. A. Lloyd, and her infant son, J. A. Lloyd, 1, Burlingame, Cal.
  • Mrs. J. Palermo, Del Monte, Cal. (en route to Cleveland)
  • M. L. Patterson, New Jersey (connected with the Sperry Gyroscope Co.)
  • Pvt. Marvin Shapiro, Chicago
  • Lt. Claire S. Tucker, USN (en route to Washington, DC)
  • F. B. Code, Brooklyn, NY (manager of the aeronautical division of the Sperry Gyroscope Co., en route to New York).

The crew:

  • Captain Don Brown, San Francisco
  • Co-pilot Harold Miner, San Francisco
  • Stewardess Neva Cantwell, San Francisco.
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