United Airlines Flight 409 Crashes
Airliner Hits Peak, Explodes; Rescuers on Way to Wreck; May Be Worst Civil Air Crash.
An Oakland-bound United Air Lines DC-4 smashed into a snow-covered, 12,000-foot peak in southern Wyoming today and apparently killed all 64 persons aboard in what probably is the worst civil air disaster in United States history.
The four-engined plane apparently hit near the top of Medicine Bow Peak, 35 to 40 miles west of Laramie, Wyo., and exploded into flames.
Pilots of the 44th Air Rescue Squadron who flew over the crash scene said the plane disintegrated and that it seemed impossible for any of the 61 passengers and three crew members to have survived.
Skilled Climbers fought bitter cold and winds on a snow-covered mountain today to retrieve the bodies of 66 persons killed yesterday in the worst commercial airline crash in U.S. History.
Their goal was the near-perpendicular south face of 12,005-foot Medicine Bow Peak, Where a United Air Lines DC-4 crashed within an hour after leaving Denver for Salt Lake City and San Francisco. The flight originated Wednesday night in New York City.
Flight 409 left Denver, Colorado at 6:33 a.m. on October 6, 1955. This was 83 minutes after its scheduled departure time. The assigned path the airliner was expected to fly was along airways V-4 Denver to Laramie, Wyoming V-118 to Rock River, Wyoming radio, V-6 to Fort Bridger, Wyoming, and V-32 to a landing in Salt Lake City. The flight was operating under Visual Flight Rules and was assigned a cruising altitude of 10,000 feet. Because the aircraft was not pressurized, the altitude was chosen to keep the passengers and crew from experiencing the discomfort that flying higher could cause. The route assigned to the airliner was specifically designed to allow safe passage at 10,000 feet over the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains.
An expected position report from the United crew, scheduled for 8:11 a.m. while over Rock Springs, was not received, and repeated attempts to make radio contact with flight 409 were met with no response. With the airliner's status unknown, the Civil Aeronautics Authority was alerted to the missing aircraft. No radar was in place for civil aviation in this region in 1955. With no radar traces, manual searches were required to find the aircraft.
A United AIrlines plane carrying 65 persons smashed into a mountain peak today killing all aboard and splitting the DC4 into fragments.
It was the worst crash of a commercial air liner in United States history.
Highway Patrolman G. H. Peterson said all had died in the tragedy. He reported two bodies had been found this evening