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by John Kremer

Hot Times, Cool Places

Celebrities Air Deaths: January

January 2, 1945: British admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey were among those who died when a Lockheed Hudson climbed, banked, and dived into the ground on taking off from Toussus-le-Noble en route to Brussels, Belgium.

January 4, 1910: French aviation pioneer Leon Délagrange (36), who made the first passenger-carrying flight in January 1908, was killed when the port wing of his Blériot XI collapsed and folded.

January 5, 1941: English aviatrix Amy Johnson was killed during World War II when her transport plane crashed into the River Thames. It was never determined whether her plane was shot down or simply developed engine trouble. Her body was never recovered. In 1930, she flew solo from Great Britain to Australia.

January 6, 1977: Natalie "Dolly" Sinatra (82), mother of Frank Sinatra, was one of four people who died in the crash of a Gates Learjet which flew into a mountain shortly after taking off from Palm Springs Municipal Airport in California.

January 8, 2000: Former Grinderswitch bassist Joe Dan Petty (52) was killed in the crash of his private plane near Macon, Georgia. Petty had also worked as a guitar tech for the Allman Brothers Band.

January 8, 2003: A US Airways Express Beech 1900 turboprop commuter plane crashed and exploded shortly after taking off from Charlotte Douglas Airport in North Carolina. All 21 people aboard were killed. The plane had trouble with guidance equipment in the tail, causing it to flip over, and dive to the ground where it clipped a hangar and burst into flames. The crash was the first to involve deaths aboard a passenger or cargo airliner in the U.S. in more than a year. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, it was the third time in a decade that a year went by without a fatality on a commercial plane. Four of the people killed were Ralph Sylvia (62), a retired nuclear power executive; Keith Coyner, vice president of product development for General Nutrition Companies; Michael Otto Sullivan (44), vice president of sales for Cape Software; and Steven Krassas, a Fannie Mae financial services consultant.

January 9, 1998: Richard Graff, co-founder of the American Food and Wine Institute, died when his Cessna crashed into a power pole and greenhouse as he was attempting to land at the Salinas Airport. The plane burst into flames upon crashing.

January 10, 1959: Animal activist Michael Grzimek died when his Dornier Do 27 collided with a Griffon vulture over the skies of Tanzania. Together with his father Bernhard Grzimek, he fought for the animals in the Serengeti. Their film about the Serengeti won an Oscar in 1960.

January 11, 1938: Pan American's first pilot, Captain Edwin Musick, was among the six people killed when a Pan Am Sikorsky S-42 seaplane exploded in mid-air as the crew was attempting to dump fuel in preparing for an emergency landing at the Pango Pango airport in American Samoa.

January 11, 1980: Lousiana State University football coach Robert "Bo" Rein died when his Cessna Conquest plane veered off course, flew over the Atlantic, ran out of fuel, and crashed into the sea. The cause of the incident was never explained.

January 12, 1937: Explorer Martin Johnson was one of five killed (out of 13 aboard) when a Western Air Express Boeing 247 crashed into Stone Mountain while attempting to land at Burbank Airport in rain and fog.

January 13, 1954: Dorothy Beecher Baker (55), a Hand of the Cause of the Bahá’í faith, and Chester Wilmot, an Australian-born radio correspondent died along with 33 others when their BOAC Comet crashed into the sea off the island of Elba after a mid-air explosion. The flight, which originated in Singapore had just taken off from Rome, Italy on its way to London, England.

January 15, 1943: Major Eric Mowbray Knight, author of Lassie, Come Home, was one of 35 people killed when their Douglas C-54 Skymaster blew up over Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) and crashed in the jungle 30 miles from Paramaribo. The plane, on a secret mission to the Casablanca Conference, may have been the victim of war-time intrigue. For more details and a list of the people killed in the crash, see http://www.lassie comehome.info.

January 15, 2000: Former CIA director Stansfield Turner (76) was seriously injured and his wife, Eli Karen Gilbert, killed in the crash of a tourist plane in Costa Rica. Three other passengers died and 13 others were injured when their Taxis Aereos Czech-made twin-engine plane crashed shortly after taking off from the Tobias Bolanos airport west of San Jose, Costa Rica. The plane fell on a house but did not injure the people inside.

January 16, 1942: Actress Carole Lombard (33), her mother, her press agent, and 19 other people were killed when their Trans Continental & Western DC-3 airplane crashed near Las Vegas, Nevada, as they were returning from a war-bond promotion tour. Carole's death was the first war-related female casualty that the U.S. suffered during World War II. Off course because the captain of the plane was in the back talking to Lombard and the first officer was up front flying all alone in instrument conditions, the plane clipped a rocky ledge on Mt. Potosi, flipped into the face of a cliff, and exploded. Carole, best known for such comedies as Nothing Sacred, was married to Clark Gable. The Red Rock Ranch, where her plane crashed, was owned by Chet Lauck and Norris Goff, who played “Lum and Abner” on radio. It is now a state park.

January 17, 1996: Ibrahim Abacha, the eldest son of Nigeria's military ruler, and 14 others were killed when their HS-125 jet crashed in Nigeria.

January 20, 2002: Staff Sgt. Dwight J. Morgan (24) of California died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. His death was the focus of the May 6, 2002 episode of the WB Network's 7th Heaven, where the Reverend Camden of the TV show officiates at a memorial service attended by his real family.

January 22, 1973: Alexander Onassis, son of Ari Onassis, died the day after being critically wounded when his Piaggio airplane crashed shortly after taking off from the Athens Airport. As it took off, it inclined to the right, spun around in circles, and then smashed its nose, tail, and wing before stopping.

January 25, 1962: Montana governor Donald Nutter (47) was killed when his plane crashed during a snow storm.

January 26, 1928: Actor Earl Metcalfe (38) died when he fell from an airplane over Burbank, California.

January 26, 1947: Opera singer and actress Grace Moore (46) was one of 22 people killed when a KLM Royal Dutch DC-3 stalled and crashed while taking off from the Copenhagen, Denmark airport.

January 27, 1952: Former secretary of war Robert Patterson as well 29 others were killed when an airliner hit apartments at Elizabeth, New Jersey. Seven people died on the ground.

January 27, 1967: Astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom (41), Edward White (37), and Roger Chaffee (32) were killed when a fire broke out during a simulation launch of their Apollo 1 spacecraft. The fire was caused by a short circuit in a 100% oxygen atmosphere.

January 27, 2001: Ten people associated with the Oklahoma State University basketball team were killed when their twin-engine King Air 200 plane took off, banked hard right, and crashed in snowy weather near Byers, Colorado. Two basketball players, Daniel Lawson and Nate Fleming, and six staffers and broadcasters were among those killed.

January 28, 1986: Astronauts Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Michael Smith, Gregory Jarvis, and Francis Scobee were killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded within seconds after its launch. Also killed was Christa McAuliffe (38), a teacher who was going aboard as a civilian. The explosion was caused by a defective O ring which allowed fuel to leak and ignite.

January 29, 1948: British air marshal Sir Arthur Cunningham, commander of the Royal Air Force in the Western Desert during World War II, was one of 31 who died when a British South American Airways Avro Tudo IV crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while approaching Bermuda while en route to Havana, Cuba. There was some controversy about this crash because BSAA's founder, ex-RAF air vice-marshall Bennett, claimed that a known wartime saboteur was seen standing near the plane shortly before take-off but prime minister Atlee blocked further investigation.

January 30, 1974: A Pan Am Boeing 707 crashed on Pago Pago in American Samoa due to windshear. 94 people died including artist Elton Bennett (64) and his wife Flora.

January 31, 1956: General John Noyes, head of the Alaska National Guard, died at Nome, Alaska as a result of a plane crash.

January 31, 1957: During the final test flight of the new Douglas DC-7B airliner over the San Fernando Valley, the plane ran almost head-on into a U.S. Air Force F-89J Scorpion jet fighter which was on a similar test flight. The pilot of the Air Force jet died as the aircraft plummeted into La Tuna Canyon in the Verdugo Mountains. Having lost its left wing, the DC-7B went into a high speed dive, began breaking up about 700 feet about the ground, and crashed into a Pacoima, California churchyard, killing all four crew members. The plane exploded into hundreds of flaming pieces that flew across the adjacent junior high school playground where three students were killed and 74 more injured. Among those killed were Roland Owen, the pilot of the Air Force jet, and Archie R. Twitchell (50), co-pilot of the DC-7B and an actor who appeared in 70 films, including Sunset Boulevard, I Wanted Wings, and Among the Living. One of the three students killed in the accident was the best friend of singer Richie Valens, who died in an airplane crash two years later.

January 31, 2000: An Alaska Airlines MD-80 jet carrying 88 people crashed on its way from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to San Francisco, California. It went down near Anacapa Island 20 miles off shore of Los Angeles. No one survived the crash. Pilots reported problems with the stabilizer trim and asked to be diverted to Los Angeles shortly before the plane plummeted into the ocean. Among the dead were the following: Financial talk show host, Cynthia Oti, of San Francisco's KSFO-AM radio; guitarist Dean Forshee; Jean Gandesbery, author of Seven Mile Lake, and her husband Robert; missionaries Joe and Linda Knight, founders of Mission to Mexico; Seattle Times wine columnist Tom Stockley and his wife Margaret; Morris Thompson, retired president of Doyon Ltd., the U.S.'s largest private landowner, and former commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also hosted “Dialogue with Doyon” on Alaska Public Radio. His wife, Thelma, also died.

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