Home > Back to Search Results > United States World figure skating team killed in plane crash...
Click image to enlarge 581154
Show image list »

United States World figure skating team killed in plane crash...

Item # 581154

February 16, 1961

THE PARSONS SUN, Parsons, Kansas, February 16, 1961

* 1961 United States figure skating team
* Sabena flight 548

This 14 page newspaper has a one column heading on the front page: "Somber Task At Crash Site".

Other news and advertisements of the day. Little spine wear, otherwise in nice condition.

wikipedia notes: Sabena Flight 548, registration OO-SJB, was a Boeing 707 aircraft en route from New York International Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) to Brussels, Belgium's Zaventem Airport on February 15, 1961. The flight crashed during the approach for landing. All 72 on board were killed, as was one person on the ground. The crash was the first fatal accident involving a Boeing 707 in regular passenger service.[1] Among the dead were the entire United States Figure Skating team, who were en route to the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

There was no indication of trouble on board the plane until it approached the Brussels airport. The pilot had to circle the airport while waiting for a small plane to clear the runway. Then, according to eyewitnesses, the plane began to climb and bank erratically and crashed suddenly in a field near the hamlet of Berg. The wreckage burst into flames. All aboard were killed instantly. A farmer working in the fields was killed by a piece of aluminum shrapnel, and another farmer had his leg amputated by flying debris from the plane. Baudouin I, King of the Belgians, and his consort, Queen Fabiola, rushed to the scene of the disaster and provided comfort to the families of the local farmers who had died and been injured.

The exact cause of the crash was never determined beyond reasonable doubt, but investigators suspected that the aircraft may have been brought down by a failure of the stabilizer adjusting mechanism.

All 18 athletes of the 1961 U.S. figure skating team and 16 family members, coaches, and officials died in the crash. The dead included, most notably, 9-time U.S. ladies' champion Maribel Vinson-Owen and her two daughters, reigning U.S. ladies' champion Laurence Owen, reigning U.S. pairs champions Maribel Y. Owen and her partner Dudley Richards, reigning U.S. men's champion Bradley Lord, U.S. men's silver medalist Gregory Kelley, U.S. ladies' silver medalist Stephanie Westerfeld, U.S. ladies' bronze medalist Rhode Lee Michelson and U.S. ice dancing champions Diane Sherbloom and Larry Pierce. The loss of the U.S. team was considered so catastrophic for the sport that the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships were cancelled.

American President John F. Kennedy issued a statement of condolence from the White House. He was particularly shocked by the disaster. One of the skaters killed in the crash, Dudley Richards, was a personal friend of President Kennedy and his brother Ted Kennedy from summers spent at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

Category: The 20th Century

Available Now