Wednesday, April 25, 2012

1971 Plane Crash on Skyline Drive

Bob Kovach sent me this newspaper clipping last year of something I remember very well from my childhood days on Skyline Drive: the day a plane unexpectedly nosedived in the field right next to our home. It appears below just as it ran in the Lorain Journal on Monday, August 30, 1971.

Plane Misses Homes, Nosedives into Lorain Field
Staff Writer

A SINGLE-ENGINED Cessna 150 dipped out of the sky over Lorain yesterday narrowly missing several homes on heavily-populated Skyline Drive east before nosediving into a vacant lot.

Instead of a tragedy, it turned out with a "believe-it-or-not" twist. Pilot Isom Elrod, 49, of North Ridgeville wasn't hurt. His only ailment, compressed air sickness – commonly known as "the bends."

He is listed in fair condition at Elyria Memorial Hospital.

Last week a similar plane malfunction ended in tragedy. Two people were killed when a twin-engined plane crashed into a house in Fairview Park, shortly after takeoff from Cleveland Hopkins airport.

POLICE SAID Elrod, who lives at 7420 Root Road in North Ridgeville, told them the plane developed engine trouble while he was on a practice flight from Lorain City Airport. When he tried to make a landing in the field the aircraft hit a boulder, causing the nose to burrow into the ground. Elrod said he was following his son, Jack, 16, who had just landed at the airport in another Cessna.

James Smith, 4002 Marshall Ave., Lorain, said he heard the engine fail when the plane was over his house.

Carl Travee, 47, 2110 Skyline Drive, Lorain was sitting on his porch when the accident occurred.

"I noticed it was coming in awful low and then I saw its propeller wasn't even turning," he said. "I ran over to the field (at the corner of Temple Court and Skyline Drive) and propped the man (Elrod) up and asked him if he was hurt. He said no, he didn't think so."

"Some kid came by and sped down to the fire station (at the corner of Meister and Leavitt roads) to get an ambulance," Travee added.

The owner of the vacant lot, Leo Dembek, 63, of 3507 Leavitt Road, Lorain, said gas was leaking from the plane's wing when he arrived.

Dembek also said that this was the fourth crash in the area since he bought the land in 1945.

Elrod was taken to St. Joseph Hospital, Lorain immediately after the crash, checked out for injuries, then moved to the Elyria Hospital, nearer to his North Ridgeville home.

Officials at St. Joseph said Elrod's illness was caused by coming down from a high altitude too rapidly. Usually "bends" sufferers are associated with underwater or tunnel accidents.

Elrod is employed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Lewis Research Center in Brook Park, a Cleveland suburb.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it is planning an investigation of the crash.

The article brings back a lot of memories for me (which I first mentioned in this blog back here). We were eating dinner in the basement on that Sunday in August to keep cool if I remember correctly, because when we heard the crash we had to go upstairs to see what happened. I remember running over there along with everyone else to see the plane. It was surprising, but not so much considering that planes flew over our house all the time since it was on the approach to the Lorain City Airport.
The gentleman that my family referred to as "the farmer" – Leo Dembek – is mentioned in the article, and it's probably the first time we ever knew his name. As I mentioned back here, we could see his farm house from our dining room window.
The area shown in the photo bordered by Skyline Drive and Temple Avenue is lined with homes today. 
Thanks again to Bob Kovach for saving that article and sending me a scan of it.

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