Date: March, 12th 1948
Type: McDonnell Douglas DC-4
Operator: Northwest Airlines
Where: Mount sanford, USA
Report No.: -
Report Date: -
NORTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT 442, A DC-4 ACFT, HAD BEEN MISSING SINCE
1948, THE WRECKAGE WAS LOCATED ON 7/26/99 AT THE 6,500 FOOT LEVEL
OF MOUNT SANFORD, ALL 30 POB SUFFERED FATAL INJURIES, OTHER
CIRCUMSTANCES ARE UNKNOWN, ANCHORAGE, AK.
*** Pilots find wreckage of 1948 Northwest Airlines DC-4
A pair of commercial pilots have found the fabled wreckage of the
DC-4 that barreled into Mount Sanford on a winter night in 1948
during a blinding display of northern lights. Legend, never confirmed
and often contested, holds that the plane was carrying gold bullion
Thirty men died in the crash, and the site is considered a graveyard
by the National Park Service. The fated DC-4 from Northwest Airlines
carried 24 merchant marines and a crew of six from Shanghai to New York
City on March 12, 1948. Northern lights appeared as hanging curtains and
were unusually bright obscuring Mount Sanford from view for periods of
one to five minutes. At the moment of the crash, a high school girl
coming out of a theater in saw an orange fireball and a red plume high
on the mountain.
The 30 men were in their late teens to mid-50s. Most were in the
merchant marine. Many had also served in the armed forces. One took
part in the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
And one of the 30, Alaska State Troopers learned Wednesday, wore a
ring on the night of March 12, 1948, when their chartered Northwest
Airlines DC-4 rammed into Mount Sanford at 230 mph.
The silver ring has the image of a mosque etched on its diamond-shaped
face, and "1946" and "Iran" stamped on its sides.
Troopers said they found the ring under rocks and imbedded in the ice of
an unnamed glacier on Sanford's west side, in Wrangell-St. Elias National
Troopers also brought back a perfectly preserved, still frozen forearm and
hand, said trooper Sgt. Rodney Dial in Glennallen.
The items were among the wreckage located Saturday by two
commercial pilots who'd made it a longtime personal project to positively
identify the remains of Flight 4422. The plane had refueled in Anchorage
on its trip from Shanghai, China, to New York before it crashed into
Sanford, possibly because of a blinding auroral display. Six crewmen and
24 mariners were on board when the plane disintegrated in a fireball seen
Whereabouts of the wreckage has long been known but, until now, never
confirmed. On Sunday, Marc Millican of Anchorage and Kevin
McGregor of Golden, Colo., hiked out with parts of the plane whose
numbers and other markings showed it was that of the doomed flight.
Millican, 42, and McGregor, 44, displayed some of the wreckage at an
afternoon press conference Wednesday in Anchorage - mangled pieces
of metal and a shard of convex plastic seared on one side.
Troopers visited the site Wednesday to recover and attempt to identify
any readily visible human remains. In the mile-long debris field, they also
found a shirt sleeve, a sock and some small bones, possibly from a foot,
The state medical examiner will extract fingerprints from the hand, and the
prints will be compared to those in a U.S. Army database, Dial said.
Troopers will check records to see who might have visited Iran in 1946,
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator also visited the site
on the 16,237-foot mountain.
The Civil Aeronautics Board, predecessor to the NTSB, never got a
chance to investigate the crash because the wreckage ended up in an
8,000-foot glacial basin that's swept by avalanches. Only adventurers
lured by rumors of gold aboard the plane tried to reach it.
Over the years, the glacier's advance moved some of the debris out of the
danger zone. The debris is small and highly fragmented, said Jim Labelle,
NTSB chief in Alaska. The investigator examined two propeller
assemblies and an engine. The propellers "were rotating at pretty good
velocity when they impacted terrain," Labelle said.
Both the NTSB and troopers have no plans to return.
Millican and McGregor have hiked to the site, either solo or together,
every year since 1995 and first spotted wreckage in 1997. All the rumors
are just that, they said.
"This wreck has been remembered for the wrong way, for a legend of
gold and not for the memory of 30 people who died," McGregor said.
The National Park Service has closed the site to visitors for 60 days to
determine what level of protection it needs.
The two pilots believe they've brought some closure by verifying the end
of 30 men. At least two relatives of those who died said they felt the
"It's a reopening. I've been crying. I've been crying," said Dorothy
Denman of Anchorage.
Denman said her uncle, August Koistinen, was aboard Flight 4422.
Koistinen was a single man in his mid-30s with 11 siblings, all but one of
whom served in World War II, she said.
Holly Byerly, 47, of Fairbanks also had an uncle aboard the plane.
Robert John Rabich was 24, ex-Navy, a merchant marine who had made
the same trip to China several times before - to deliver cargo vessels -
and was headed home to New York. It was supposed to be his last trip.
"All of this is absolutely amazing to me," said Byerly.
"It had become history, and now - look at all the things I've learned
today," she said. "I didn't know about the (rumors of) gold, about a
fireball tumbling down the mountain. It's a closing and an opening too."