TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP / Getty Images
Just nine days before Christmas 1960, on the morning of Friday, December 16, an air tragedy killed 128 people aboard two planes and 6 more who were on the ground. in Brooklyn, generating the deadliest aviation disaster in the world up to that point.
The incident occurred when United Airlines Flight 826 from Chicago lost communication over the Hudson River and drifted into the airspace of TWA Flight 266.
After impacting in the air, the TWA L-1049 plane crashed in Millar Field (Staten Island) and the DC-8 United crashed in Park Slope (Brooklyn). One early survivor, 11-year-old boy Stephen Baltz, was traveling alone and was saved by curled up on the lap of a flight attendant on the United plane. He was thrown into a snowbank on impact, being badly burned and poisoned by inhaling fuel. He died the next day.
There is a monument to him in the Methodist Hospital, where it was taken. “Now, 61 years later, new buildings line the street (of Brooklyn), with the scars of the past barely visible,” he recalled. Pix11.
The United Airlines flight was to land at the Idlewild Airport (today JFK) and was carrying 84 people when it collided in midair with the TWA Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation descending into the city, en route to LaGuardia. There were 44 people coming from Dayton and Columbus, Ohio.
United’s DC-8 crashed into the Park Slope section of Brooklyn at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Sterling Place, scattering debris and setting fire to ten apartment buildings, Pillar of Fire Church, McCaddin Funeral Home, a Chinese Laundromat and a grocery store. In addition to all the passengers and crew, six people died on the ground, amid freshly fallen snow. The TWA aircraft crashed in the northwest corner of Miller Field, with some sections crashing into New York Harbor.
The probable cause of the accident was identified in a report from the US Civil Aeronautics Board: “United Flight 826 proceeded beyond its clearance limit and the airspace assigned by Air Traffic Control. A contributing factor was the high speed of the United DC-8 as it approached the Preston intersection, along with the clearance change that reduced the distance en route (…) by approximately 11 miles. ”
In 2010, on the 50th anniversary of the accident, a memorial to the 134 victims of the two crashes at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, site of the mass grave where the human remains that could not be identified were placed.
The accident was the subject of an episode of the documentary series “Why Planes Crash” de The Weather Channel, first issued in April 2013.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.