Seattle TV producer and historian Feliks Banel was recently researching the 60th anniversary of the debut of the Boeing Dash-80 when he discovered that Washington state’s only jetliner crash happened near Oso.
He told KIRO Radio that an early model of the Boeing 707, a plane that put the aerospace company on the map, went down on October 19, 1959 about five miles west of Oso’s recent deadly mudslide.
Banel said the four-engine jetliner was about to be delivered to Dallas-based Braniff Air. Braniff pilots were on board, learning how to operate the aircraft from Boeing pilots and flight engineers.
It was late afternoon on a Monday during an otherwise routine flight when something went wrong about 12,000 feet above Oso. A Braniff pilot lost control after a maneuver called a “Dutch Roll” that exceeded the jet’s limits. A Boeing pilot took over and managed to stabilize the jet, but three of the four engines were torn from the wings and the aircraft caught fire. The Boeing pilot was attempting an emergency landing along the north fork of the Stillaguamish River when the 707 crashed.
Four of eight people on board were killed. According to The Seattle Times, those who died in the crash were Russell H. Baum, 32, of Bellevue, a Boeing pilot; George C. Hagen, 28, of Renton, a Boeing flight engineer; Jack A. Berke, 49, of Dallas, a Braniff pilot; and Frank Staley, 43, also a Braniff pilot. The survivors were William Huebner, 35, of Dallas, a Federal Aviation Agency inspector; Fred Symmank, 39, of Carrollton, TX, a Braniff pilot; Albert C. Krause, 28, of Irving, TX, a Braniff pilot; and William J. Allsopp, 41, of Seattle, a Boeing pilot.
Witnesses to the crash, who either lived nearby or who were in the area that day and who were mentioned in the newspaper coverage at the time, included Anton Ostler, Nicholas R. Schwartz, Mrs. Walter Ribble and Mrs. Frank Germaine.
Banel is trying to track down survivors or witnesses, or relatives or friends of survivors for a documentary project he’s working on for Seattle PBS affiliate KCTS 9. He can be reached by email at [email protected]