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Copyright © 2013
by John Kremer

Hot Times, Cool Places

Celebrities Air Deaths: October

October 1, 1949: 1940's pop singer, Buddy Clark, died from injuries he sustained when the light plane he was in crashed on a street in Los Angeles, California. Some of Clark's famous recordings include “I'll Dance at Your Wedding,” “A Dreamer's Holiday,” and especially “Linda.”

October 2, 1970: One of two Martin 404 chartered airplanes carrying the Wichita State University football team crashed into a mountain in Clear Creek Canyon in Colorado. 31 of the 40 people aboard the plane died in the crash. The cause of the crash was pilot incompetence. Trying to take a scenic route over the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, the Golden Eagle pilot flew the Martin 404 plane into a canyon close to the ground. Too late, the pilot discovered he was in a box canyon with not enough room to gain altitude. He tried to turn around but crashed into the canyon walls. The pilot was one of the survivors. Most of those who died perished when the full load of fuel exploded and burned. The few survivors had gotten out of the crashed plane before the explosion.

October 3, 1955: Multimillionaire George Shakel and his wife Ann, parents of Ethel Skakel Kennedy (wife of Robert Kennedy), were killed when their refurbished WWII Douglas A-26 Invader bomber crashed near Union City, Oklahoma. Witnesses reported seeing the plane flying low with both engines on fire shortly before the crash. The plane's crew also died in the crash.

October 4, 1930: British air minister Lord Thompson and civil aviation director Sir Sefton Branker were killed when the airship R101 exploded after hitting a hillside after losing height in a heavy rain near Beauvais, France while en route to India. Only 8 of the 56 people aboard survived the crash. The crash was caused by an overweight, underpowered airship caught in a heavy rain.

October 4, 1970: NASCAR driver Curtis Turner (45) and professional golfer Clarence King (51) were killed when Turner's Aero Commander private plane went into a tailspin and crashed into an abandoned strip mine about a mile northeast of Bell Township in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.

October 6, 2000: Former New Jersey state legislator Charles B. Yates (61), his wife, and two children were killed when their plane crashed just short of the runway at Martha's Vineyard Airport near Edgartown, Massachusetts. More recently, Yates was chairman of the board of FMS Financial Corporation.

October 7, 1962: U.S. representative Clement Miller (46) of California was killed in a private airplane crash near Eureka, California.

October 10, 1989: Three of Donald Trump's hotel/casino CEO's, Stephen Hyde, Jonathan Benanav, and Mark Etess were killed when their Augusta helicopter crashed on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. The pilot and copilot were also killed.

October 11, 2006: New York Yankees pitcher Corey Little (34) died when his small airplane crashed into an apartment building in New York City.

October 12, 1997: Singer John Denver (53) died when his experimental single-engine Rutan Long EZ plane crashed about 100 yards of Lover's Point near Monterey, California. At first, rescuers could not identify the body because the face was damaged beyond recognition, but authorities were later able to identify Denver by his fingerprints. Denver was famous for writing and performing “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Country Roads,” and other songs. The crash occurred when Denver inadvertently pressed down on the plane's right rudder pedal while trying to switch fuel tanks by reaching for the fuel selector switch behind him. The plane had been modified to place the fuel selector switch behind the pilot rather than between his legs.

October 12, 2000: Colorado state representative Gary McPherson (37) was killed when the single-engine plane he was piloting crashed 190 miles east of Vancouver, Canada. Two others were also killed and another injured in the crash.

October 13, 1972: A chartered Uruguayan Fairchild F-227 airplane carrying family and members of a Montevideo, Uruguay rugby team crashed in the snowbound Chilean Andes. 32 of the 45 people aboard the plane survived the crash. Over the days they remained by the crash site, the survivors began eating those who had died in the crash. By the time they were rescued 72 days later, only 16 people had survived. The experience formed the basis of the 1993 movie, Alive!

October 16, 1972: House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (58) of Louisiana, U.S. representative Nick Begich (40) of Alaska, and two others were killed when their plane disappeared over Alaska.

October 16, 2000: Missouri governor and U.S. Senate candidate Mel Carnahan (66) was killed when his campaign plane, a 1980 Cessna 335, crashed near Hillsboro, Missouri. Also killed were his son Roger (44), the pilot, and his top aide Chris Sifford. Carnahan went on to win the Senate race and his wife was appointed to fill his seat until a new election could be held.

October 18, 1925: Marvin Goodwin, Cincinnati Red pitcher, died in a plane crash in Houston, Texas.

October 19, 1982: In the TV show Dallas, patriarch Jock Ewing died in a helicopter crash.

October 19, 1986: The first president of Mozambique, Samora Machel, and 34 aides were killed when their Tupolev 134A-3 airplane crashed into a hillside in South Africa. Controversy surrounded the crash. The pilot of the plane was likely led off course by a false radio beacon broadcasting on the same frequency as the navigational beacon at the Maputo, Mozambique airport. 11 people survived the crash.

October 20, 1922: Lieutenant Harold Harris became the first person to be saved by a parachute as he abandoned his crippled test plane over the skies of Dayton, Ohio. He landed safely, thus becoming the first member of the Caterpillar Club (people saved by parachutes).

October 20, 1977: Two members of the Lynyrd Skynyrd rock band, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant (29) and guitarist Stevie Gaines, were killed when their plane crashed near McComb, Mississippi. Six people out of 26 aboard the Convair CV-300 were killed, including Dean Kilpatrick, the band's assistant manager, and Cassie Gaines, a backup singer. Due to low fuel, both engines quit before the aircraft could land and a forced landing was made in a wooded area.

October 21, 2005: A Bellview Airlines Boeing 737 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from Lagos, Nigeria during a thunderstorm en route to the capital Abuja. 114 people were on board the plane including several high-ranking Nigerian officials

October 22, 1986: WNBC's traffic reporter Jane Dornacker (39) was killed when the WNBC traffic helicopter crashed into the Hudson River. The pilot survived. Earlier that year, Dornacker survived the crash of another helicopter into the Hackensack River. Dornacker sang with the Tubes on their hit “Don't Touch Me There” and with the performance art group Leila and the Snakes.

October 22, 1996: British multi-millionaire Matthew Harding (42), vice-chairman of the Chelsea Football Club, died in a helicopter crash caused by pilot inexperience.

October 23, 1942: Composer Ralph Rainger died in a plane crash near Palm Springs, California. Rainger had composed such songs as “Thanks for the Memory” and “Love in Bloom.”

October 23, 1964: Harold David Box (22), Buddy Groves, Carl Banks, and Bill Daniels, members of the band Buddy and the Kings, died when their Cessna Skyhawk 172 crashed nose first and overturned as they returned from a gig in Harris County. Daniels was the pilot. Box had sung lead on the Crickets's “Peggy Sue Got Married” after the death of Buddy Holly.

October 24, 1947: Jeff Burkett, punter for the Chicago Cardinals football team, died in the crash of a commercial airliner in Bryce Canyon, Utah.

October 25, 1991: Rock promoter Bill Graham (60), famous for his rock 'n roll shows at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium and New York City's Fillmore East, died when his Bell 206B helicopter hit an electrical transmission tower and crashed near Vallejo, California. Two others (Bill Graham Presents staffers Steve Kahn and Melissa Gold) were killed in the crash, which occurred during heavy rain and high winds.

October 25, 1999: PGA golfer Payne Stewart (42), winner of the 1989 PGA Championship and two-time winner of the U.S. Open, died after his Learjet Model 35 lost pressure causing everyone aboard to lose consciousness. Stewart, two pilots, two agents (Van Ardan and Robert Fraley, who headed the sports management firm of Leader Enterprises), and golf course designer Bruce Borland (40) were killed when the plane ran out of fuel and finally crashed in a field outside Mina, South Dakota (only after flying out of control for several hours across the United States). Stewart had been on his way from Orlando, Florida to Dallas, Texas, to play in a golf tournament.

October 25, 2002: Minnesota Democratic senator Paul Wellstone (58), his wife Sheila (58), and daughter Marcia, three campaign staffers, and two pilots were killed when their Beechcraft King Air A100 crashed on approach to the Eveleth, Minnesota airport. There had been some light snow and freezing weather during the time of the crash, but the cause of the crash may have been that the plane was traveling too slowly (only 85 knots) as it approached the airport. The plane should have been traveling about 120 knots as it landed. Wellstone had been going to Eveleth to attend a funeral before going on to Duluth for a campaign speech.

October 28, 1947: Oregon governor Earl Snell, secretary of state Robert S. Farrell Jr., and senate president Marshall E. Cornett as well as the pilot Cliff Hogue were killed in a plane crash in wild terrain east of Klamath Falls, Oregon.

October 28, 1949: Algerian-born French middleweight boxing champion Marcel Cerdan (33), French violinist Ginette Neveu (30), and 46 others were killed when their Air France Lockheed 749 Constellation airplane flew into a mountain on San Miguel Island in the Azores. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991, Cerdan was on his way to fight Jake LaMotta in Spain.

October 29, 1953: One of the greatest American pianists of this century, William Kapell, died along with 18 others when a British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Douglas DC-6 plane crashed as it descended into the San Francisco area. Kapell was returning from a tour of Australia at the time of the fiery crash.

October 29, 1960: Sixteen members of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football team were among the 22 people (out of 48 aboard) who died when an Arctic Pacific airplane crashed shortly after taking off from the Toledo, Ohio airport. The plane lost power in engine #1 and may have been over the weight limit.

October 29, 2006: A Nigerian ADC Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed shortly after taking off from the Abuja, Nigeria airport, killing 99 people including Ibrahim Muhammadu, Sultan of Sokoto and the leader of the nation's 70 million Muslims. Seven people survived the crash, which occurred under bad weather conditions.

October 30, 1954: Race car driver Wilbur Shaw (52), president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, died in a small plane crash near Decatur, Indiana. Shaw had won the Indianapolis 500 three times in his career.

October 30, 1958: Philip Scrutton, British Walker Cup golfer, died in a plane crash.

October 31, 1964: Astronaut Theodore Freeman (34) was killed when his T-38 jet crashed near Ellington Air Force Base in Houston, Texas.

October 31, 2002: Lionel Poilâne, French gourmet baker and entrepreneur, and his wife Irena died when the helicopter he was piloting in fog crashed near his country house in Brittany, France.

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