December 4, 1950: Jesse
Leroy Brown, the first black American naval aviator, became the first
black naval officer to die in combat. He was shot down over Korea.
December 4, 1978:
Ann Stevens, wife of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, was killed when a
private Learjet 25C plane crashed at Anchorage International Airport in Alaska.
Her husband, the senator, was one of two survivors. Five people were killed in
December 4, 1980: Portuguese prime
minister Francisco Sá Carneiro (45), was
among those who died in an airplane crash.
December 7, 1936: French aviator
Jean Mermoz (35), veteran of 23 transatlantic
flights including the first from France to South America, was killed along with
five others when the Latécoère 300 Croix du Sud disappeared without a
trace four hours out of Dakar after Mermoz radioed that he was cutting one of
the four engines.
December 7, 1941: Japanese planes
attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. They sunk 21 American vessels and killed 2,338
military personnel and civilians. This attack precipitated America's entrance
into the World War II fighting.
December 8, 1967: The first black
astronaut, Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., was
killed in the crash of his F-104 fighter during a training exercise six months
after he had been selected for astronaut training. The other pilot on board the
fighter survived the crash.
December 8, 1972: U.S. representative
George Collins of Illinois, TV anchorwoman
Michele Clarke, and
Dorothy Hunt, the wife of Howard Hunt of Watergate fame, were among
43 passengers (out of 61 aboard) killed when their United Airlines Boeing 737
crashed in a residential area when it stalled out on approaching Midway Airport
in Chicago, Illinois. Two people on the ground were also killed in the incident.
Clarke was the first black female anchorwoman on any network station in the U.S.
As a child, her family was the first black family to move to Cicero, Illinois,
sparking days of riots by whites, necessitating the call-up of the National
December 8, 1987: 17 players of the
Alianza Peruvian first-division soccer team
died in the crash of a Fokker F-27 plane near Lima, Peru.
December 9, 1936:
Juan de la Cierva, the inventor and developer of the autogiro died
in a crash of a KLM flight, soon after take-off near London, England. A tragic
irony to the story is that de la Cierva’s invention (in normal circumstances) is
an aircraft that cannot stall, and can only land gently.
December 9, 2012:
Jenni Rivera, singer and reality TV star (I Love Jenni on
Mun2), was killed when the Learjet she was flying in crashed about ten minutes
after taking off from the Monterrey, Mexico airport. Her lawyer, makeup artist,
and publicist were among the other people killed in the crash.
December 10, 1967: Rock 'n roll singer
Otis Redding (26) and four members of his
Bar-Kays band were killed when their Beechcraft
H18 plane crashed in icy Lake Mendota inside Madison, Wisconsin, on a foggy
night. Redding is best known for his hit, “Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay,”
which was released after his death. Redding had recorded the song just three
December 11, 1941: John
Gillespie Magee, Jr. (19), American pilot and poet, was killed when
his VZ-H Spitfire V collided with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield
during World War II. The mid-air collision occurred over the village of Roxholm,
England. Earlier that year on September 3rd, Magee flew to 30,000 feet during a
test flight in a newer model of the Spitfire V. As he orbited and climbed
upward, he was struck with the inspiration of his famous poem “High Flight”
where he wrote of touching the face of God.
December 12, 1965: NASA doctor
Randolph Lovelace and his wife were killed when
their Beechcraft B95 plane crashed near Aspen, Colorado.
December 12, 1999: Optical inventor
Peter La Haye Sr. (59) and his two pilots were
killed when their Westwind 24 corporate turbo jet crashed near Gouldsboro in the
Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. La Haye, developer of replacement lenses for
cataract patients, was owner of La Haye Laboratories and Neoptx in Redmond,
December 12, 2001:
Donald Weidner, former executive director of the Republican Party in
Florida, and three others were killed when their Piper Cherokee crashed in a
wooded, swampy area near the Jacksonville International Airport. The crash
occurred after the plane was diverted from Craig Municipal Airport 15 miles away
because of dense fog.
December 13, 1977: A National Jet
Services DC-3 crashed as it was taking off from Evansville, Indiana. 29 people
died, including the entire University of Evansville
basketball team and their coach Bobby Watson.
Also killed was radio broadcaster Marv Bates, three crew members, and two Air
Indianapolis officials. The aileron on one of the wings remained locked making
it difficult for the plane to bank in the rain and fog. Also, the luggage had
been improperly loaded thus causing a rearward center of gravity that pulled the
plane's nose too high on take off.
December 13, 1994: The 1994 winner of the
BASS Masters Classic, Bryan Kerchal (23) of
Newtown, Connecticut, was among those killed when an American Eagle commuter
plane crashed in Morrisville, North Carolina.
December 14, 1958:
Blaine Staats, a sophomore tackle for West Virginia, died in a plane
crash near Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.
December 15, 1944: Bandleader
Glenn Miller (40), flight officer John Morgan,
and Lt Colonel Baessell were killed when their Norseman UC-64 plane disappeared
in a fog over the English Channel. At the time, Miller was serving in the army
entertaining the troops during World War II. It is possible the plane was hit by
bombs jettisoned over the Channel by returning RAF bombers. As a band leader,
Miller was best known for such hits as “Moonlight Serenade.”
December 19, 1997:
David Schramm, a world-famous astrophysicist died when his
twin-engine Swearingen SW-3 plane stalled in mid-flight and then crashed into a
field near Byars, Colorado. He had been on his way from Chicago to Aspen.
December 19, 2008:
Michael Connell, an IT security expert and owner of GovTech and New
Media Communications, died when his Piper Saratoga plane crashed near Lake
Township, Ohio. Conspiracy theories suggested that Connell was killed because he
knew too much about a Republican Party attempt to steal the Ohio vote in 2004
(and thus the presidential election).
December 20, 1929: U.S. representative
William Kaynor (45) of Massachusetts was killed
in a private plane crash near Washington, D.C.
December 20, 1998: Ocean rowing champion
Phil Stubbs (36) was killed when his Piper
PA-18 turned to the right and nose-dived into Karekare Beach just after taking
off from Auckland, New Zealand. His passenger survived the crash.
December 21, 1988: A terrorist bomb
exploded on board a Pan Am Boeing 747 flying over Lockerbie, Scotland. As a
result, 270 people were killed, including 11 on the ground. It was one of the
ten deadliest crashes in aviation history. Among those killed was
Bernt Carlsson, the United Nations Commissioner
for Namibia; Paul Avron Jeffreys, the
original bassist with Cockney Rebel; and Ian Parkin, guitarist
of the Be Bop Deluxe rock band.
December 23, 2002: A Ukrainian AN-140
airplane flew into a mountainside while getting ready to land at an airport near Isfahan, Iran. 46 important scientists were killed in the incident.
December 23, 2007: Prominent California
businessman Michael Klein (37), chief
executive officer of hedge fund company Pacificor, was killed in a plane crash
in a remote mountain area of Panama. His 13-year-old daughter Talia as well as
the plane's pilot were also killed. His daughter's friend Francesca Lewis was
rescued after being carried out of the jungle by rescue workers who had walked
five hours to reach her. Klein, former CEO of eGroups, and the two girls were on
vacation when the crash occurred.
December 26, 1946:
Dr. Raymond Banister and Harold Roth
disappeared in an airplane crash after flying from Seward, Alaska.
December 26, 1975: Actress
Myrna Ross, famous for appearing in many beach
movies, was killed in an airplane crash outside of Granby, Colorado. In the
beach movies, she played Boots, a member of a motorcycle gang, who saved Sugar
Kane (Linda Evans) from being sawed in half in Beach Blanket Bingo.
December 31, 1972: Baseball great
Roberto Clemente (38) and three others were
killed when their overloaded Douglas DC-7CF plane crashed into the Atlantic
Ocean off San Juan, Puerto Rico, on its way to providing relief supplies to the
victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake.
December 31, 1985: Rock 'n roll singer
Ricky Nelson (45), five members of his Stone
Canyon band, and his fiancée were killed when a fire broke out on board a DC-3
taking them to a New Year's Eve performance in Dallas, Texas. Two people
survived the crash landing near DeKalb, Texas. The fire was caused by a
malfunctioning heater. Nelson was first known as the son of Ozzie and Harriet in
their TV show of the late 1950s. He later became famous as the singer of such
hits as “Travelin' Man” and “Garden Party.”
Miscellaneous Celebrity Air Deaths