On this day: the plane crash that killed an entire sporting team


Found in the wreckage X

On the 15th of February, 1961 the plane transporting the entire US figure skating team to the World Championships crashed in Belgium, killing everyone on board.


Two days earlier, national ladies’ champion Laurence Owen, aged sixteen, had been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. There is a common myth that appearing on the cover of the magazine curses athletes, as she is not the only person to have something terrible happen soon afterwards.


The Owen family. X

Owen’s sister Maribel, also a member of the team, and her mother, a coach and former champion herself, were also on the flight.

In addition to the seventy-two people on the plane, a farmer was also killed by flying debris.


The team boards the plane the day before the crash. X

Once news of the crash got out, the Championships, scheduled to be held in Prague, were cancelled to honour the victims.

On this day: The Hindenburg disaster

On the 6th of May, 1937 the German airship the Hindenburg caught fire and crashed to the ground of Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, United States.

Hindenburg begins to fall seconds after catching fire

There was recently a documentary about his disaster on television here in Australia. It turns out I didn’t know all that much about it. For example, I had no idea that not only were there survivors, but that the majority (sixty-two) of people on board survived! The spectacular footage of the crash (and how convenient that all the media people were lined up ready to photograph and film it) doesn’t make it look like something you would survive.

Apparently most people who lived had to wait inside until they were close enough to the ground to jump. It’s so hard to picture it, considering the extent of the fire, and how fast the airship was engulfed in flames – just over thirty seconds. Also hard to believe because it fell at such an angle – how did they even know which way was up by the time they came near the ground?

 Hindenburg_disaster_1937Hindenburg crashing.

Items including letters were retrieved from the wreckage. I find it extraordinary that paper could have made it out of that ball of fire.

Thirty-five people on the ship were killed, as well as one member of the ground crew. In the footage you can see people jumping to the ground, others running in every direction and some who are running but don’t make it free before the structure collapses on top of them.

It’s such a terrifying sight. Nearly eighty years later and these monster ships of the sky still look futuristic, like something out of a science fiction movie!

The Hindenburg was supposed to depart again that evening, loaded with a fresh batch of passengers travelling to England for the coronation of King George VI. I’m guessing they never made it.