Remembering the tragic Elizabeth plane crash of 1952
On January 22nd, 1952, an American Airlines flight headed to Newark crashed into an apartment building in Elizabeth, killing 31 people, including all 23 on board the airplane. Shockingly, it was one of three plane crashes in Elizabeth in two months.
In the January crash, the aircraft, a Convair CV-240, was flying through a storm of wind, fog, and rain when it hit the buildings some 2.8 miles shy of Newark Airport. Accounts at the time described that the plane “exploded like a bomb." Flames engulfed the buildings.
According to the New York Times, the pilot had been in contact with the airport’s ground control unit in preparation for an instrument landing when the plane disappeared from the radar screen in an instant “as if snatched by an invisible hand.” The pilot, Captain Thomas J. Reid, lived only blocks from the crash site.
In the crash of the previous December in Elizabeth, 56 people were killed. In February of 1952, killed 29 people on board and narrowly missed an orphanage. In none of the crashes was the airport found at fault, although it was closed for nine months after the third crash. It is believed that mechanical issues caused the crashes. The third plane that crashed, which had left Newark bound for Miami, was a Douglas DC-6.
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