Investigators Remain Silent On Crash Cause
Indicate Plane Engines May Have Been Giving Insufficient Power
YPSILANTI--Naval authorities had no statement today as they continued their investigation into the Tuesday night crash of a giant transport plane killing a Coast Guard officer and injuring six Navy men.
Spokesmen at the Grosse Ile Naval Air Station, which is conducting the investigation, said it will be "sometime" before they announce a "primary cause" of the crash.
Lt. Cmdr. Hoyt Duff, aviation safety officer at Grosse Ile, is heading an investigating board. He said following a preliminary investigation early yesterday that "it appears engines were not giving sufficient power."
The Naval Reservist pilot of the plane, Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Pietro, 32, of Chicago, told sheriff's deputies immediately following the crash that the craft's altimeter apparently was defective. It "registered between 600 and 900 feet when we crashed," Pietro said. He is a regular co-pilot for North Central Airlines.
Salvage crews from Grosse Ile began work today at the wreckage scene. The plane crashed into a water-filled Ypsilanti township gravel pit, just 2 3/4 miles short of the instrument landing runway at Willow Run Airport. The plane came down during a blinding snowstorm.
The Naval investigating board studied the crash scene yesterday after interviewing the six survivors. The R5D plane, comparable to a civilian DC-4, will be reconstructed as much as possible at Grosse Ile in attempts to determine the exact cause of the crash.
Three of the injured, meanwhile, remain in University Hospital in improved condition. The other three were discharged yesterday.
Commander Seriously Hurt
Most seriously hurt was Cmdr. Benjamin G. Preston, 43, executive officer of the Glenview Naval Air Station where the 44-passenger troop transport was based. He was considered in "good" condition today, suffering a fractured right leg, fractured shoulder, head injuries and a possible arm fracture.
Both Preston and Aviation Maintenance Mate 1/C Floyd Adolph Meisch, 30, of Glenview were in "serious" condition yesterday. Meisch, with a fractured jaw and leg, chest injuries and multiple cuts and bruises, was described as in "satisfactory" condition today.
The third man, Aviation Maintenance Mate 1/C Floyd Birt, 31, is in "very good" condition with a fractured leg.
Pietro and Ensign Thomas Burke, 22, of Chicago were released from Beyer Memorial Hospital here last night. The sixth survivor, Seaman 1/C Eric N. (Rick) Starr, 19, was treated and released early yesterday.
Stationed aboard a Naval ship anchored at San Francisco, Starr had begun a 20-day leave Sunday and was hitch-hiking to his Boston home. All of his luggage was burned in the fiery crash. The young seaman remained at Grosse Ile today.
Preston's wife flew to Ann Arbor yesterday in a private plane to be with the veteran fighter pilot. He was listed as co-pilot on the fatal flight, but was taking turns on the long trip from Albuquerque, N. M., with Lt. Cmdr. William E. Sale of San Diego who suffered fatal injuries when his co-pilot's seat broke during the crash.
Accidents - Aviation
United States Coast Guard
Willow Run Airport
World War II
North Central Airlines
Beyer Memorial Hospital
Ann Arbor News
Benjamin G. Preston
Floyd Adolph Meisch
Eric N. Starr
William E. Sale