First Emergency Responder to Arrive on Scene of 1963 Plane Crash Recalls Tragic Night

Trooper Hash with his patrol car about 1963

Lt. Don Hash (Retired) of the Maryland State Police, the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene of the plane crash east of Elkton on December 8, 1963, recently talked to the Singerly Fire Company Museum about his recollections of that dark, stormy night in a Maryland cornfield where 81-people perished


On a stormy December Sunday evening in 1963, Maryland State Trooper Don Hash, a 23 or 24 year-old rookie one year out of the academy, was cruising northbound on Route 213 near Brantwood Golf Course.  As an unusual late fall thunderstorm rolled across Cecil County, heavy rain pelted the patrol car when a powerful bolt of lightning in the shape of a wishbone suddenly came out of low hanging clouds, illuminating the area.  One or two seconds after that a large airplane enshrouded in an orange glow flew out of the cloud.  The doomed craft continued in flight for 10 to 15 seconds before a wing fell off and the plane nosed straight down into the ground.  Trooper Hash radioed to alert the barrack as he raced toward the crash site, somewhere east of Elkton near the state line.

Don, who would retire from the Maryland State Police as a Lieutenant, talked to us on June 9, 2011, about his experience that troubling, unforgettable dark night in a Maryland cornfield.  He was the first emergency responder to arrive on the scene.  “I could see flames on Delancy Road,” he recalled as he neared the crash site.  “It wasn’t a large fire.  It was several smaller fires.  A fuselage with about 8 or 10 window frames was about the only large recognizable piece I could see when I pulled up.  It was just a debris field.  It didn’t resemble an airplane.  The engines were buried in the ground 10 to 15-feet from the force of the impact.”

By this time everyone was mobilizing.  The state police called for troopers from other barracks to help the three troopers covering the county that evening.  In a few minutes the fire company arrived and during the next hour officers from throughout the state started arriving on the scene to help.  Trooper Hash stayed on the crash scene throughout that long stormy night until he was relieved the next morning.

Click here to hear part of the interview with Lt. Hash (retired).

Related articles

Remember Cecil County’s Fallen Firefighters

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


9 responses to “First Emergency Responder to Arrive on Scene of 1963 Plane Crash Recalls Tragic Night

  1. my dad i am very proud of his career and to have him as a dad and a role model

  2. Frieda Hensley

    Wow, what a nice article about our friend, Don. I know that he was there
    for everyone who needed him.

    Bob and Frieda

  3. Thanks John. I enjoyed talking to Lt. Hash. HIs precise, detailed recollections of what happened 50 years ago were most informative. We talked about a few other things that were going on in that era such as Cambirdge, Bel Air and things and he shared some of his experiences there on the tape. We’ll put that recording in the historical society collection.

  4. I was studying in my dorm room at the University of Delaware that Sunday night. A thunderstorm was in progress, which I thought was unusual in December. About 9:00 PM I heard a loud noise more like an explosion than thunder. Goose bumps ran through me. My room in Brown Hall faced West instead of South, so I didn’t see the aircraft go down. I could not imagine the noise being anything but thunder, so forgot about it until the next morning.

    I did considerable research on this accident later. The Pan Am Boeing 707 was the only known airliner in history (and to this day) to have been brought down by lightning. The Civil Aeronautics Board determined the probable cause as “lightning-induced ignition of the fuel/air mixture in the No 1 (left) reserve fuel tank with resultant explosive disintegration of the left outer wing and loss of control.” This accident prompted the FAA to require all airlines to install static discharge wicks on the trailing edges of wing and tail surfaces. Static discharge wicks allow static electricity to be bled off as it occurs instead of building up in one spot.

    This particular Boeing 707 was the first 707 delivered to a U.S. airline. It even had a name: Clipper Tradewind, and was registered as N709PA. Flight 214 was returning from San Juan, PR with a stop in Baltimore before proceeding to Philadelphia. It had flown earlier that day from Philadelphia to Baltimore to San Juan as Flight 213.

    I left a copy of the 24 page CAB Accident Report and some other information with the Cecil County Library about 10-15 years ago.

    Just a minor correction to my comments. The Boeing 707, Clipper Tradewind, N709PA, was the first pure jet airliner (not a jet-prop) delivered by a U.S. manufacturer (Boeing) to any airline. United Airlines had flown the French built pure jet Caravelle since the late 1950’s.

  5. Thanks for sharing that Dave.

  6. Elizabeth Shea, a Salem, NJ attorney, her husband, and two other friends were on that tragic flight. My mother remembers running into her a couple of weeks before the crash while she was shopping in Salem.

  7. Thanks for sharing this story. You have lots of readers that enjoy the work you are doing sharing the stories of Cecil County. Thanks

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