I find it interesting how tragic events become forgotten as time passes. Usually, the more tragic the event, the longer the story seems to stick around in the collective memory. That doesn’t seem to always be the case, however.
I often stumble upon strange bits of news, or tragic events while searching for something completely unrelated; whether I come upon them while digging through old newspaper archives or looking through death certificates.
It was while I was browsing through death certificates that I came upon something unusual on November 11th, 1965. Instead of the typical 15-20 deaths listed during the previous days, November 11th has 52 death certificates.
As I looked at the first couple of death certificates I noticed that the cause of death was the same; asphyxiation and severe burns. I then realized that the location of death was the Salt Lake Airport, and I immediately realized that a plane must have crashed.
It didn’t take long for me to find the story of what happened.
On the evening of November 11th, 1965, United Airlines Flight 227 was preparing to land at Salt Lake City International Airport. The flight originated from New York’s LaGuardia airport, it’s final destination was San Francisco Airport with a couple of stops in between.
The plane landed in Denver and the crew was swapped before resuming its journey to San Francisco. Next stop was the Salt Lake airport. From all accounts, the flight up until that point was completely uneventful. At 5:47 pm the plane was cleared to approach. Air Traffic Control asked the pilot what their altitude was and the response was “250 knots at 10,000 feet.” The plane began to descend and it was later determined that its descent was 2,300 feet per minute. More than three times what it should have been.
At 5:52 pm the plane hit the ground, 335 feet short of the runway. It slid 2,838 feet before coming to a complete stop. Due to impact the landing gear and one of the engines broke free from the airplane. When the landing gear separated it ruptured one of the fuel lines in the fuselage and the plane immediately erupted in massive flames.
Immediately the passengers and crew tried to escape the burning inferno. Of the 91 people on board (including the crew), 13 escaped with no injuries, 35 had non-fatal injuries, and sadly, 43 people on board Flight 227 did not survive. To date, it is the deadliest commercial airplane crash to occur at the Salt Lake International Airport.((Aviation Safety Network))
41 of the 43 people who perished in the crash died at the scene. Two men died days later at nearby hospitals from their injuries. From survivor accounts, the fire came so fast and so hot that some of the passengers didn’t even have time to stand up. One survivor who was returning to Hill Air Force Base made it off with few injuries while his two friends sitting next to him didn’t survive. One entire family died in the crash, and another man lost his wife and two young children. The victims ranged in age from 2 to 66 years old.
On June 7th, 1966 the Civil Aeronautics Board released their findings as to the cause of the crash of Flight 227: The Board determines the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the Captain to take timely action to arrest an excessive descent rate during the landing approach.((Aircraft Accident Report))
The crash of Flight 227 was the 3rd crash involving a 727 in 87 days. All three planes crashed during landing approach and all three originated from New York City.
Following the accident, the FAA issued an order that aimed to improve pilot training, and flight time requirements were established for the captain before the copilot could execute takeoffs, approaches, and landings. Also, minimum numbers and types of landings were increased for pilots training on turbojets.((FAA Lessons Learned))
I found a news clip of accident coverage from 1965 that you can see below.
List of Flight 227 Victims:
Theodore G. Fulmor – Age 61. Ted was one of two men who survived the initial crash but later died of their injuries in a Salt Lake City hospital. Ted was a research chemist and was the director of the Extractive Metallurgical Research Division for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in Butte, MT.
Sterling R. Forney – Age 48. Sterling was a retired lieutenant colonel and was working as an equipment specialist at Hill Air Force Base. He was returning to Utah from a temporary duty assignment at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
William E. Linderman – Age 44. Bill was the first man in professional rodeo history to win three world titles in a single season. He was also the first professional cowboy to win almost $500,000. He was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame posthumously in 1979.((Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame)) Bill was heading to Washington State at the time of the crash to speak at a conference. There are a couple of interesting stories associated with his death. Some people said that he initially survived the crash only to die after returning to the plane to help save others. The other is that when the plane stopped in Denver, Bill cashed a check. In the spot for his address, he wrote ‘heaven”.
Violet Weaver – Age 45. Violet was on her way to Pinedale, Wyoming to be with her husband for their wedding anniversary. Mr. and Mrs. Weaver were from Oklahoma, but her husband was working on an oil well near Pinedale.
Robert A. Stansell – Age 38. Robert was the vice president in charge of sales for the Ark-Less Switch Corp. from Massachusetts and had boarded the plane in Denver. He was heading to the West Coast, presumably for business.
Helen Bowdidge – Age 39. Helen LaRue Bowdidge worked for the Reliance Life Insurance company and was the proud mother of four children. She lived in Bountiful, Utah and was returning home from a trip.
Harold, Vera Mae, and Norman Blaisdell – Ages 55, 46, 11. Mr. Blaisdell was an Engineer for McDonald Douglas. It is unknown where he and his family were headed.
Curtis Lee – Age 20. Curtis was an Airman 3rd Class in the United States Air Force. He enlisted just two months prior to the plane crash. He was a former football star in his hometown of New London, Texas.
Pete Rallas – Age 45. Pete was a salesman for the Dayco Corporation. He lived in Los Angeles.
Fred Hart – Age 34. M. Sgt. Fred Hart was a flight engineer with the 28th Air Transport Squadron at Hill Air Force Base. He was returning home to Utah. Unusually, MSgt. Hart along with three other passengers of Flight 227 survived a midair collision just days before. They were flying in a C-124 Globemaster over Oklahoma when it collided with a small private plane. The Globemaster managed to land safely with one engine knocked out.
John Feiock – Age 37. John was a real estate specialist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamations. He was returning to Salt Lake City from Pueblo, Colorado where he had been working.
Herman Caling – Age 34. S. Sgt. Herman Caling was a loadmaster with the 28th Air Transport Squadron at Hill Air Force Base. He was returning to Utah from a temporary duty assignment.
Joseph Bracco – Age 56. Joseph was an Assistant Purchasing Agent with the Montana Power Company.
Howard Pack – Age 61. Howard was the Regional Service Manager for the White Motor Company based in San Francisco.
Janet, Rosa, & Maria Bennett – Ages 24, 5, and 2. The Bennett family had been living in Bogota, Colombia serving as Papal Volunteers in the Pavla Program for the Catholic Church. This was their first trip home in three years. Marvin Bennett was also onboard Flight 227. He was the only member of the Bennett family to survive.
Sarah Fine – Age 33. Sarah was an Office Manager for the Business Men’s College in Lamar, Colorado.
Raymond Gallant – Age 53. Raymond was a Field Sales Manager for E. I. du Pont de Nemours Co and was returning to Salt Lake City from a business trip.
Emmitt Siniard, Sr. – Age 40. Emmitt was a Senior Contract Negotiator for Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was the second man who survived the initial crash but died days later in a Salt Lake City Hospital.
Robert Burnis – Age 37. TSgt. Burnis was a flight engineer assigned to Hill Air Force Base. He was returning to Utah from a temporary duty assignment.
John Weber – Age 43. John was a professor of economics at the University of Idaho.
Edna Allred – Age 45. Edna was a nursing home attendant in Moore, Oklahoma.
Carol Combs – Age 27. Carol was returning to Utah from Texas where she had been house hunting in preparation for a move.
Deva Harris & Evelyn Olson – Age 42 and 66. Deva worked at Hill Air Force Base as a Secretary for the 945th Troop Carrier Group. She was returning to Utah with her mother, Evelyn Olson. They were visiting relatives in Texas.
Betty Wood – Age 51. Betty was from Cheyenne, Wyoming and had boarded the flight in Denver. She was coming to Salt Lake City to visit family.
William Shoemaker – Age 38. William was a regional sales manager for a paper company based in California. He was on the flight for business.
Edward Gammie – Age 26. Edward was an attorney from Illinois, he and his wife had just welcomed their first child in September 1965.
Hamilton Von Breton – Age 53. Hamilton was the president of the Island Timber Co. He was on his way back to California.
Fred Gottschalk – Age 54. Fred was the chief of marketing for Central Research and Development Division of Potlatch Forests, Inc. He was from Lewiston, Idaho and was on his way back to Idaho.
Allen Berry, Sr. – Age 59. Allen was the district manager of Boise Cascade and was returning to Salt Lake City after a business trip to Denver.
Raymoth Harlan – Age 50. Raymoth was a secretary for the J L Cooper Co. in Spokane, Washington.
Jack Cavin – Age 63. Jack was a painter from St. Louis, MO. He was en route to Twin Falls, Idaho to visit his mother for her 86th birthday.
Douglas Reid – Age 31. Douglas was an electrical technician from Granger, Utah.
Alvin Jacobson – Age 38. Alvin was an executive with Motorola and lived in Van Nuys, California.
Robert Manly – Age 36. Robert was an oil and gas lease broker from Salt Lake City. He was returning to Salt Lake City from a business trip to Denver. It was also his birthday.
Vernal Steffensen – Age 60. Vernal was the president of the First Security Bank of Idaho. He had boarded the plane in Denver, returning from a business meeting earlier in the day.
Ronald Whitaker – Age 56. Ronald was the general sales manager for the Amalgamated Sugar Company in Ogden, Utah. He boarded the plane in Omaha, Nebraska and was headed to Boise, Idaho for a business meeting.