On Memorial Day 1947, Eastern Airlines Flight 605 Crashed Near Port Deposit

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.

Here is a link to the CAB report.

plane crash port deposit 01

Emergency response personnel working at the scene of the 1947 crash.

The CAB issued its report the following year and here’s a link to that archived document.port deposit plane crash general area

Publisher’s Note In 1963, another tragic airliner would crash in Cecil County, taking 81 lives.  Click here to read that story. Related Articles:  Memorial Erected on hillside where plane crash occurred. On A Rain Swept Sunday Afternoon Monument Dedicated

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46 responses to “On Memorial Day 1947, Eastern Airlines Flight 605 Crashed Near Port Deposit

  1. Curtis Weaver

    The cause of the Port Deposit crash isn’t really a mystery at all. Read the book Fate is the Hunter for the pilot’s account of a near-crash over the Pacific that occured the very same day. The author (whose name escapes me at the moment) considers it a miracle that his aircraft escaped the fate of the Eastern Airlines flight.

  2. Curtis:

    Thanks for letting me know about that. I’ll get a copy from the library and read it.

  3. The author’s name is Ernest K. Gann, and Fate is the Hunter is one of the finest books ever written about aviation, and maybe just one of the finest books ever written, period.

    The cause of the crash was a missing hinge bolt at the left elevator, which allowed too great a distance to form between the control and the fixed part of the elevator. The pilots would have felt the ship go into a steep dive and could not have pulled out of it. They never had a chance.

    I find this crash poignant because it’s too easy to imagine the desperate struggle the pilots must have made to right the ship in those last terrible seconds of the dive. It is to be hoped that no one on board had a chance to suffer very much.

  4. Kate: Thanks for the info on that title. I’ll get a copy for my library. Do you have a special interest in this crash?

  5. I was a 17 year od sailor at Bainbridge Naval Base when flight 605 went down. They took a bunch of us sailors out there to surround and guard the site until everything had been secured. It was an awful site for a 17 year old kid from a Georgia farm.

  6. Amos, thanks for sharing that information. I’d really enjoy hearing more about your experience on that tragic day. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Well the only thing further I can add is that it was an awful site. I had never seen anyone dead before. There were pieces of bodies and clothing hung up in the trees. One womans head in a tree I can still see to this day. After that I wound up is Korea and I guess I got used to seeing dead people if there is any such thing as getting used to it.

  8. Pingback: Jonathan

  9. harriet bernstein pollon

    My father, Henry Bernstein of Woodbride, New Jersey died in the crash. I was five at the time and went with my mother to the crash site some time after. I thought the white sheets hanging from the trees were part of parachutes that hadn’t opened. I still remember the trees.
    Thank you to Port Deposit and Jeanette Nesbitt Hillyer for eresting the monument- it means a lot.
    Harriet Bernstein Pollon

    • Harriet thanks so much for sharing your memory. They dedicated the monument to the victims today outside Port Deposit. I’ll have a post up on that in a few minutes.

  10. Pingback: Johnathan

  11. I have some original photo negatives taken of this crash if anyone would be interested. They were taken by a News American photographer by the name of Jack Shipley.

    • I lost a relative in the crash of Flight 605. Photographs of the crash site would probably help me understand the reality of this event. I was only ten years old at the time.

      • JIm if you’re ever in Cecil County stop by the Historical Society too. While we have a photo or two online, we have a number more in our collection and we also have the newspapers from that time.

  12. Mich, thanks we’d definitely have an interest in those.

  13. I’d be happy to donate them. This event seems to be very meaningful to a number of people. They will probably need to be developed by a professional who is familiar with old negatives. Feel free to contact me via my email.

  14. Thanks so much Mich. We’ll be pleased to look after them and make sure they’re available for researchers. Thanks so much for the generous offer and we’ll be in touch by email.

  15. wow, here it is 2011, i just read and heard about this crash accidently by doing some history on port deposit.. it is so sad. i wasnt even born yet, but my heart goes out to all the families who lost loved ones, my deepest sympathy, D smith port depost md.

  16. Dori, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this tragedy

  17. Kathy Davisson

    Wellm here it’s now April 18, 2012, and I knew about the crash that happened in 63 but I had thought it was after I was born which was in 65 and going back and looking at the crash of 63 being able to read about it and actually listen to the waoman who took the call that nite, brings tears to my eyes. That crash was on now which is called Delancy Rd and we traveled that road all the time. And now today my 2nd oldest sister lives in Buckhill Farms, whichmis the development on the other side of the road where the crash took place. My heart aches for the families who lost loved ones that night. K. Davisson I have lived in cecil county all my life.

    • Kathy, that December in ’63, when the big airplane went down in the cornfield as a thunderstorm swept through Cecil County, was a tragic night for so many families and people. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reflections on that tragedy.

  18. For many years I tried with very little success to find accurate information about the Eastern Airlines flight 605 crash in Port Deposit. George Starrett,
    a first cousin of mine was amongst the passengers who were killed. He had survived the Battle of the Bulge and a German prisoner of was camp. Flight 605 was the first part of his journey to South America where he was to perform as a dancer under contract to the New York City Ballet. At the time of the crash I was 10 years old. His memory is very important to me.

    • JIm thanks so much for sharing your personal memory about that sad day. We’ve had a couple of large commercial airliners crash in Cecil County and periodically we hear from famly members as you’ll see in some of the other posts. If you’re passing through Cecil County sometime stop by the Society and look at our folders related to the cash.

  19. I am finishing Ernest Gann’s remarkable book, “Fate Is The Hunter”. I casually picked it up because I am a fan of the movie “The High and the Mighty”, based on one of his novels. I asked my brother-in-law, a Delta Airlines pilot for 25 years, if he had ever heard of Gann and he responded, “every pilot has read or should have read that book”.

    As I read through the book I researched much of what Gann talked about and found him to be accurate 100% of the time.

    When he talked about the Bainbridge crash (Flight 605), it was with respect for the pilots and for his own ability, through luck, to avoid Fate’s dark hand on the very same day it grasped flight 605.

    It was a privilege to read the other posts about this flight and to hear that a memorial to the passengers and crew of Flight 605 has been created.

    It must also be comforting to know, despite the tragedy of the event, that the loss of the plane was due to a known cause–a cause far beyond the abilities of the pilot and crew to control.

  20. Steven M. Artsis

    My Grandfather Samuel Storch was also killed in that Eastern Airlines Plane Crash, I was not born for two more years when he perished. My only memories of him are from other family members accounts. Samuel Storch was my Mother’s Father. Steven M. Artsis

    • Steven thank you so much for sharing your family story. We hear from family members often both from the Port Deposit Tragedy and another commercial airliner crash in Elkton. Dec. 8, 1963, will be the 50th anniversary of the Elkton crash and we are planning a remembrance service for the community and family members.

  21. Rafael Grillo

    I decided today to research this flight in more detail and found this post. It is surprising and touching how a tragedy that took place 65 years ago still resonates. My namesake grandfather and two aunts perished in that flight. We are originally from Costa Rica. He had come to Canada to pick up his daughters after they finished their studies there. They were on their way back home when tragedy stroke.

    • I still have the original negatives tken by a News Americn photographer if anyone is interested.

      • Mich, we’d really appreciate being able to archive digital copies of those images at the Historical Society. We get lots of calls and it would be most helpful. Thank you for offering. I will email you direct.y

  22. I live in Turnquist, where the Elkton crash happened. I had toyed with the idea of writing a book about it, the first part being stories about the victims from family members. How they were, what they did before the crash. Maybe several stories about the people involved. The second part would be about the crash itself, including the information on the rescue voiced on the monitor. My step father is big in North East Fire Company and he knew the woman that was the dispatcher that night. She has sadly passed, but I would have loved to talk to her personally.The last part would involve the aftermath. The paranormal activity in the area and stories from local people that have had sightings or paranormal happenings. I just wish I was author material! I moved here 12 years ago, not knowing anything about the crash. I just knew there was some sort of head stone at the front as you drove in. One day I walked up and read it, and after that I began to research. I copied everything the local library has . . . Please Mike, if you have any information that you would like to share, especially about the 50th Anniversary, I would love to help and be involved!

    Thanks so much, and your stories have all touched me. I am so sorry for your losses.

    Wendy Toney

  23. Wendy stop by the Historical Society sometime. We have lots of files and materials on the subject. Many newspapers from the cities covered the tragedy too, so y9u may find those of interest. We are open Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. and on the first Saturday of each month — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  24. I am replying to your posts as I am a resident of Principio Rd. since 1972.
    When we moved here, we heard about a plane crash which happened near by but never knew much information. It is ironic that the location has been a place of many death causing vehicle accidents as it was a dangerous curve with large oak trees lining the road. The last bad accident where several were killed, friends cut down the tree. Since then the road has been
    straighten somewhat and most of the trees are gone.

  25. I live at the corner of Li ton Run and Winch Rd. Can anyone tell me how close to my home the crash happened? I have only lived here 4 yrs.

  26. A pleasure, Mike. Not sure whether it is only my case, but the link to the CAB report leads to an “Access denief” message.

  27. Like an earlier contributor, I was reading E. K. Gann’s book (Fate is the Hunter) this PM and came across the remarkable story of the May 30th DC-4 crash near Bainbridge, MD. The plane was just ahead of a DC-3 full of CAB investigators who observed the crash and then landed at Aberdeen, MD. I was stationed at USNTC Bainbridge from 1967-1972 and explored every nook and cranny of that area but never heard about this crash. I also got an “access denied” response to the CAB report and would like to read it if it can be pried loose.

  28. Thank you for your responses. It might be worth investing in a metal detector. I will keep you posted if I find anything.

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