The Airplane Crash of 1929
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 January 11, 1929, at about 1:30 p.m. a large U.S. Army transport plane, a C-2 Fokker tri-motored monoplane, departed from the Middletown Air Depot. Piloted by 29 year old Lt. Robert Angell of Birmington, Alabama, the plane was making a return trip to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. with a heavy load of supplies, including batteries crated in wooden boxes.

Those watching the plane from the Air Depot tower noted that the plane had great difficulty in gaining altitude, barely skimming treetops as it left the field. It made a low, wide circle over Middletown, then flew several miles down the Susquehanna. Lt. Angell must have decided to return to Middletown, however, for he turned around and headed back up the river. By the time he reached Lower Royalton, he was barely forty feet in the air. After skimming the rooftops of the Harry Lerch and Kathryn Borges homes, the plane nosedived into a vacant lot bordered by Penn, Canal and Allen Streets, between two houses occupied by Raymond Burger and Edward Sheetz.

The plane's low altitude and roaring motors attracted the attention of many eyewitnesses who watched it struggle to keep aloft. Melvin Henry states that he warned his father, "That plane's going to crash!" And it did just moments later.

Henrietta Tezak recalls that she was in Miss Gardner's high school ready to graduate. Miss Gardner excused the whole school so they could go down to see the crash. Henrietta's Dad and a cousin who worked at the Air Depot brought her a section of the plane's laminated wood wing (6 X 8 inches), but her mother was very displeased because it represented death. Henrietta kept it anyway, a treasured keepsake.

Ten Army personnel had come to Middletown the day before on the same plane to pick up army supplies. It was piloted that time by a Capt. Dinger. However, during a lunch break at the Officers' Club, he and Lt. Angell flipped coins to see who would pilot the plane back to Washington. Therefore it was Capt. Angell and eight of the men who had arrived the previous day on that plane who made up the ill-fated crew for the return trip. The other two men had already left for Washington on another plane.

Medical help, including Drs. O. H. Swartz, H. H. Rhodes, and Dr. Blecher, rushed immediately to the crash, a devastating sight. The plane had broken apart and thrown five of the men completely out of it, killing them instantly. The pilot and two others were still belted into their seats. All eight were wearing parachutes, but were unable to use them because they were too close to the ground.

The dead men were wrapped in blankets and taken in Army trucks to Roth's "morgue" in Middletown, while the other three were rushed to the Harrisburg Hospital in critical condition. Capt. Angell was in extreme pain because of a crushed skull and many internal injuries. As rescuers pulled him from the wreck he asked for a drink of water, then begged piteously, "Please shoot me."

Capt. Angell's fiancee was notified immediately of the accident, so she rushed to Harrisburg to see him. As she walked through the door of his room he died. They didn't even have time to say "Goodbye." The other two injured men died within minutes of each other.

Mechanics at the Depot claimed the plane was in perfect flying condition when they checked it out that morning, and subsequent investigations never did unveil the reason the plane failed in flight.

The big monoplane C-2A-26-204, was a sister ship and duplicate of "The Question Mark", a plane that shortly before had completed a sensational long endurance flight of 150 hours in the air over California, proving the feasibility of in-flight refueling. The crashed plane was also an exact duplicate of the plane in which Commander Richard Byrd made his historic flight over the North Pole in May, 1926.

Information for this story was found in the MIDDLETOWN JOURNAL, dated January 12, 1929; also from Melvin Henry, Henrietta Tezak, and others.


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