Sixty-two years ago on a gorgeous Memorial Day, a DC-4 with 53-people on board suddenly plunged from the sky into a thick woods outside Port Deposit, MD. With about an hour of daylight remaining Eastern Airlines Flight 605 departed La Guardia on time for its scheduled trip to Miami. As the southbound craft neared the Susquehanna River, Bainbridge and Port Deposit coming into view, everything seemed perfectly normal on this serene afternoon. A DC-3 with a group of Civil Aeronautics Board Investigators (CAB) trailed about three miles behind Flight 605. They too were enjoying the afternoon as the sunlight faded. They were returning from probing the crash of another DC-4 at La Guardia the day before.
With the tranquil scene and the daylight fading, the CAB staffers were taking in the view. But suddenly they were jolted out of this peaceful tranquility by the frightening action of the craft just ahead of them. It was streaking earthward in a vertical dive. Losing altitude quickly, the plane kept dropping and it appeared that no attempt was being made to pull it out of the steep, rapid, out of control descent. Then there was a puff of white smoke, a flash of orange, and billowing cloud of smoke.
After circling the scene, the federal men landed at Aberdeen Proving Ground and commanded ground transportation to the scene to start another fatal investigation. Everyone on board had died in the terrible explosion. Fire companies from Perryville, Port Deposit (Water Witch) and Havre De Grace, along with police officers and men from the Bainbridge Naval Training Center, rushed to the scene, but there was nothing they could do. The crash occurred in a dense, thicket of woods and vines near the north end of Principio roads, not too far from Bainbridge.
Chief Walker of the Havre De Grace Police Department was the first officer to reach the scene according to the Havre de Grace Record. Hurriedly covering the few miles from town to the scene, he told the Record that he was guided to the area by a plane which kept circling above the area. It was later determined this was the craft carrying the CAB officials from the accident at La Guardia which also took a huge toll of lives. “I left officers Bullock and Himes to drive to the scene of the accident while I made my way through the woods on foot. I’ll never forget the horror of that first glimpse I received when I entered the clearing . . . The tangled wreckage of the airliner was a blazing inferno and I realized that all of the passengers must surely be dead.”
According to Aviation Week, the accident was tagged as a mystery. No evidence was found on the structural cause of the crash and in those days recording devices were not yet in use. This is one of the few “for reasons unknown” crashes in the history of U.S. air accidents and the investigation still has experts puzzled all these decades later.
The CAB issued its report the following year and here’s a link to that archived document.
In 1963, another tragic airliner would crash in Cecil County, taking 81 lives. Click here to read that story.
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