25 Die in Airplane Crash; Senator Lundeen Among Victims – The Zanesville Signal (1940)


21 Passengers and Four Crew Members Reported Dead; Worst Disaster in U. S. Commercial Aviation History

The Zanesville Signal Ohio, September 1, 1940

Lovettsville, Va., Aug. 31. — (INS) –

The worst disaster in the history of U. S. Commercial aviation occurred near here late today what all 25 persons aboard a Pennsylvania Central airliner crashed to their deaths at the height of a terrific rainstorm.

Among the 21 passengers on the capacity filled plane was Senator ERNEST LUNDEEN, Farmer-Laborite, of Minnesota. The other passenger victims included a number of government employes and minor federal officials, among them being at least three agents of the department of justice.

The four members of the crew killed included Pilot LOWELL SCROGGINS, the Airlines oldest pilot in point of service, who was at the controls of the first ship dispatched from Washington by the company thirteen years ago.

First Fatal Accident

It was the first fatal accident in the airline’s history and it shattered the proud safety mark set by the nation’s Commercial Airlines which had flown one and a quarter billion miles since March 26, 1939 without a single passenger fatality.

Because of the heavy rain that drove local residents indoors, no actual eye-witnesses of the catastrophe could be found immediately.

Nearest to the scene, apparently, was LESTER MASON, whose farm home is on the opposite side of a knoll from which the plane flowed into the ground.

“The plane was flying low . . . too low for this hilly country. We knew that right away,” MASON said. “We’re used to hearing it come over at just about that time, around 2:30 o’clock, in the afternoon.”

“Today we heard the roar of the motors much louder than usual. Just as I started to look out the window I heard a terrific noise.”

“We ran outside without even thinking of raincoats. And we could see what had happened as soon as we got on top of the hill. It was horrible.”

Sounded Like Explosion

“It sounded like the plane exploded when it hit the ground. But there was no fire. Or is there was, it had been put out immediately by the rain. It was coming down so thick then you couldn’t see more than a quarter of a mile. It was worse than a fog.”

“The plane was broken to bits and so were the bodies of the people in it.”

“We stumbled on toward it. The pieces of wreckage were strewn all over a two-acre stretch of ground. So were the bodies. Those which were still whole were so badly mangled I don’t see how they could ever be recognized.”

Others residents in the district and the tiny town five miles from the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers said they had heard the plane circling for a time before the crash.  They said it appeared the big ship was in trouble and the pilot had been trying to find a field large and flat enough for a forced landing.  None of the hearers, however, were able to determine whether the plane had motor trouble. One local store keeper said the engines sounded about as usual.

Visibility Bad

Visibility was so bad and the terrain so hilly in the triangle between the two rivers, that any desperate hunt for a haven for the big ship was foredoomed to failure from the start, aerial experts conceded.

Because of the remoteness of the district and lack of communication, news of the tragedy did not even reach Lovettsville for nearly an hour.

Lovettsville is located in the northern tip of Loudoun county, Virginia, about five miles from Harpers Ferry, W. Va., and conceded by pilots to be one of the trickiest areas on the Washington Pittsburg run.

It is frequently swept by wind and rain driven in cross currents through the Shenandoah mountains that loom on either side.

Taxing telephone facilities and narrow roads around the little upcountry hamlet here, swarms of police, federal inspectors and curious quickly threw the countryside into confusion.

ED BATEMAN, son of MRS. MARY H. BATEMAN, of 948 Adair Avenue, has been a pilot with Pennsylvania-Central for some time.  He is based at Detroit, and flies regularly in the company’s northern division, from Detroit to Minneapolis and St. Paul, and to Cleveland, Akron and Pittsburgh.


Pittsburgh, Aug. 31 – (INS) – The 25 persons aboard the Pennsylvania-Central Airlines transport which crashed in Virginia tonight killing all on board were, according to PCA:

LOWELL SCROGGINS, pilot, Washington, D. C.
J. P. MOORE, co-pilot, Washington, D. C.
MARGARET CARSON, hostess, Pittsburgh.
JOHN. R. STAIRE, PCA observer, Washington.

Senator ERNEST LUNDEEN, of Minnesota.
W. M. BURLESON, 57 Lock Lane, Richmond, Va.
DR. C. D. COLE, 5305 41st St., NW., Washington, bound for Lansing.
E. J. TARR, 1722 19th St., NW., Washington.
MISS M. TURNER, Huddleston, Va., bound for Cleveland.
MISS C. POST, 1739 Kilborn Place, NW., Washington.
WILLIAM GARBOSE, department of justice, Washington.
MISS EVELYN GOLDSMITH, of Pittsburgh and 1200 Euclid St., Washington.
MISS DOROTHY BEER, secretary in war department, Washington, D. C.
A. HOLLOWAY, interstate commerce commission, Washington.
E. G. BOWER, department of internal revenue, Washington, D. C.
JOSEPH J. PESCI, 213 W. Market St., Blairsville, proctor at Duquesne university, Pittsburgh.
MISS NAOMI COLTO, 3821 Newark St., Washington, D. C.
A. H. ELLIOT, 5757 McKinley St., Washington, D. C.
MRS. R. M. HALE, Pittsburgh.
MISS MILDRED CHESSER, 1738 M. St., NW., Washington, D. C.
D. P. JAMES, interstate commerce commission, Des Moines, Iowa.
H. J. HOLLERITH, Chicago.
E. W. CHAMBERS, 17 Craighead St., Pittsburgh.
M. P. MAHAN, 1788 Lender Place, Washington, D. C.
A. MOCK, Washington, D. C.

The Janesville (Ohio) Signal  1940-09-01

Many thanks to Stu Beitler at http://www3.gendisasters.com/virginia/2406/lovettsville-va-air-disaster-aug-1940?page=0,0