Plane Crash in McDowell County

Welch Daily News
July 1, 1942

Airliner Falls Near Premier

10 Bodies Recovered From Charred Wreckage

All Aboard Believed To Be U. S. Army Men

Plane Wreckage and Equipment Scattered for Over 200 Yards


An eleventh body was reported to have been removed from the wreckage of the air liner which crashed this afternoon near Premier.

At least 10 men, all believed personnel of the United States Army Air Corps, were killed and their bodies burned beyond recognition early this afternoon when what was believed to be an American Airlines flagship crashed and burned about a half a mile from Premier.

State Troopers Earl Yeager and Tom Harrison of the Welch state police detachment said 10 charred bodies had been taken from the wreckage. Articles found about the burning plane, they said, were from U. S. Army equipment.

The bodies were removed from the wreckage and placed nearby under police guard, as others were sought.

The troopers said there was a possibility the death toll would be even higher as reports had been received what appeared to be men jumping from the plane. This indicated that some of the men may have attempted to parachute to safety, but it was believed the plane was too low for a successful leap and that any such attempts would prove fatal.

Several names were taken from the articles found about the wreckage.

These were:

Irwin Stratman, found on a belt.
Floyd Hyet, from army duffel bag.
Pvt. Guy Hill, name taken from book.
Corp. Jackson.

Where the plane was from and its destination remained a mystery.

Names of at least two air fields were found on articles taken from the wreckage, but these were withheld. The plane fell about three miles southwest of Welch and a half a mile from Premier in what is known as No. 4 hollow.

Several persons at Premier and Coalwood saw the big airliner disappear. It was traveling in a southwest direction and passed over about the center of Coalwood.

James R. Moreau, editor of the Coalwood-Caretta News, said he saw the plane flying at not more than 500 feet as it passed over Coalwood. He said he later saw smoke coming from it and then the wing fall off.

It was raining hard at the time and there was a heavy low fog, witnesses reported.

Lawrence Runyon, superintendent of the Premier Pocahontas Colliery company; Mrs. Runyon and a niece Miss Columbia Charles said they saw the plane fall.

Saw the Crash

Mrs. Runyon said she and Miss Charles were on the back porch when they heard a roaring noise. They looked up, she said, and saw a plane which appeared to be in trouble, flying in a southwesterly direction.

"I saw what looked like a wing fall," Mrs. Runyon said, "then the ship appeared to go in what looked like a tailspin. It soon disappeared."

Mrs. Runyon said she called to her husband who was upstairs at the time.

Mr. Runyon said he looked out the window in time to see the plane before it fell.

"It looked like the pilot was fighting to save the ship," Mr. Runyon said. "It appeared to be doing a barrel roll, then the ship finally straightened out, but then fell."

Mr. Runyon said he sent a party of several men in one direction and he went in another. Among those in the party were Andy Orban, Junior Bunn, W. A. Williams, and Shorty Grimes.

These men were among the first to reach the scene, Mr. Runyon said. He had traveled in another direction, he added, but saw the burning ship from a mountainside. He did not go immediately to the scene, he said, but returned home.

Immediately after the crash, Mr. Runyon notified the West Virginia state police. Trooper Yeager and Harrison rushed to the scene and all available ambulances in Welch were called.

First reports of the wreck indicated that it was a Pennsylvania Central Airlines 24-passenger plane, but a check with the Pittsburgh office of Pennsylvania Central showed all its planes were accounted for.

The pilot's maintennace [sic] report found near or in the wreckage revealed that the plane was a flagship of American Airlines. Since most air line transport planes have been taken over by the army, it was presumed the plane was being used for transport duty by the army and that all on board was army air corps personnel.

A part of a burned birthday card found near the wreckage lent added tragedy. It was a birthday card from some father to his son. It read, in part: "All that a birthday can hold of joy. And That's what I'm wishing for my dear boy." It was signed simply "Pop."


West Virginia Archives and History