Article by Lonny Frost (c) 2015
Tuesday, June 23, 2015, silently marked the 48th anniversary of the tragic plane crash of Flight 40. Residents still recall seeing the flaming Mohawk BAC 1-11 flying way to low over the hills of Mansfield, Covington and Blossburg. Smoke and flames could be seen trailing being the plane as it continued to lose altitude.
The noise of the plane is what many remember hearing first, once their eyes quickly located the plane above and many Blossburg residents were outside on a nice June day in 1967. Many were at the swimming pool located at the Blossburg Island Park when the plane went down.
All 34 on board were killed when the plane went down 13 minutes after taking off from Elmira, New York after it took off for Washington, D.C.. The passenger plane crashed near the small town of Blossburg, Pa.
It was one of the worse disaster the town of 1,956 residents had ever witnessed. As well as, being the most tragic and grizzly accident scene any volunteer fire personnel had ever worked. This crash was also the worst air disaster for the growing Mohawk company, at that time.
The plane was only a year old and only had 2,246 hours of use. It was equipped with 2 model 506-14 Spey engines manufactured by Rolls-Royce. In fact, they called these planes the one-eleven Fan-Jets.
This passenger jet plane crash was the very first NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation. Even the FBI arrived in Blossburg to assist in the investigation into why the plane went down.
Some believed it was sabotage, as did, the Founder-President of Mohawk Airlines, Mr. Robert Peach. Others believed a bomb brought down the plane, but that was later dismissed as no evidence supported the use of a bomb.
One of the youngest passengers was a little girl that was being transferred from Wellsboro Soldiers & Sailors Hospital to another hospital due to a medical health issue. A witness who assisted with the transport of the child to the plane, recalled the young girl and the doll the child held onto. When he heard of the crash he rushed to the scene. Sadly he was the one that came across the doll as they searched the debris strewn over the mountain side for survivors.
Louis Schultz, who was the Blossburg Postmaster at the time reported seeing the plane’s left wing on fire and pieces of debris falling from the plane.
Schultz said in an interview, “It was making a noise like a whistle and it was going down sideways,”
Schultz had gone to site and saw the plane wreckage. He told those he spoke too that the fuselage was completely gone, it was like someone stuck dynamite in the center of it and blew it to pieces.
Fire crews from all over Tioga County, Pa and some neighboring counties were called in to assist in the aftermath of the crash.
News helicopters flew over Blossburg and the news crews from several stations interviewed residents, State police, FBI agents and members of the NTSB, all wanting to know what happened.
The only real recognizable piece of the plane was the tail of the Mohawk BAC 1-11, which burnt off and fell to the ground below, prior to the crash. The plane tipped a deep strip through the woods about 100 yards wide and 500 yards long. The tail section was thrown 400 yards from the impact site of the crash. Some of the witnesses were workmen at a coal strip mine who immediately took a bulldozer and plowed two roads through to the site a mile and a half away.
Investigators claim a valve was put in wrong and a fire occurred. In which the plane lost pitch and crashed into a wooded area just shy of hitting the town of Blossburg, Pa.
The Blossburg community fed and lodged many of those who came in to investigate this horrific crash. Even young teens assisted in the recovery of bodies parts. Nearly everyone in town worked in some way to help in this tragic scene. From women cooking to children helping with clean up. Many of the men assisted where they were needed.
The Blossburg Town Hall became the headquarters for the FBI and the NTSB investigators. There they worked on the cause of the crash, recovery of remains and it also became a make-shift morgue. Later a semi-truck with a refrigerator trailer was brought in to store remains of the victims.
Passengers were mostly identified by their jewelry, dental records or other such means available at that time.
The remains that could not be identified were buried in the Tioga County Memorial Gardens.
The community members of Blossburg were remarkable in their assistance in the deadliest accident to ever occur in Blossburg’s history. Many of the relatives of those who perished in the crash were thankful for their help. Those who investigated also thanked the community for all they did to help in this situation.
One thing has stayed constant throughout Blossburg’s history is its strong community support, no matter what comes its way, they face it and work together through it.
Blossburg remains proud of their town’s people, its history and their willingness to step in and lend a hand.
If you have any information, photos or remember that day, FIRST News Now editor, Lonny Frost is still looking for more information from those in Tioga County Pa. Anyone who may have seen the plane prior to it crashing, those who may remember the crash scene and those who may have worked on this call leave a private message. I am also still looking for information about the passengers, crew, as well as, photos of them and the crash scene. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .. Thank you.