Date: February 15th, 1961
Type: Boeing 707
Where: Brussels, Belgium
Report No.: Not Available
Report Date: -
This is not an accident investigation report.
The following is an article from The New York Times, February 16, 1961
edition, about the crash of a Sabena Boeing 707 at Brussels Belgium as
it was written, followed by a brief summary of other articles concerning
18 U.S. SKATERS AMONG 73 DEAD IN A JET CRASH
All lost when plane falls at Brussels -- 49 Americans
By Harry Gilroy, Special to the New York Times
Brussels, Belgium, Feb,15 -- A Sabena Airlines Boeing 707 jet crashed
near the Brussels Airport early today, killing seventy-three persons,
including the eighteen members of the United States figure skating team.
The plane, enroute from New York, plunged to earth after it had twice
circled the airport. The dead included the sixty-one passengers, the
crew of eleven, and a farmer in the feild where the plane fell.
The passengers included forty-nine Americans, a Swiss, a Frenchman, a
German, a Canadian, a Nicarauguan, and seven Belgians.
The American figure skating team was on it's way to a world
championship meet in Prague. It's members included Mrs. Maribel Vinson
Owen, 49 years old, of Winchester, Mass., and her two daughters, both of
them champions. Mrs. Owen was the United States figure skating champion
nine times. On the current trip, she was the coach for her daughters.
Worst Sabena Crash
The crash was the worst ever suffered by Sabena. It also marked the
first time any passengers had been killed in a Boeing 707 accident. The
last serious Sabena crash occurred May 18, 1958 when a DC-7C crashed at
Casablanca, killing fifty-six passengers and nine crew members.
The four engine jet came in sight of the control tower shortly before
10 A.M. in a cloudless sky. The plane, which had left New York at 7:30
P.M. yesterday would have landed at once except that another plane was
moving along the runway to take off, an airport offical said.
Persons in the little farming hamlet of Berg, northeast of brussels,
saw the airliner circling overhead at an altitude of 600 feet. Officals
at the control tower were also watching the plane with field glasses.
Suddenly, the plane fell, an airport offical placed the time at 10:05
Plane Strikes Farmer
The plane came down at a 70 degree angle onto a small farm feild. It
plunged into a grove of trees, narrowly missing three houses. It struck
Theo de Laet, a young farmer noted as an amateur cyclist, killing him. A
piece of debris tore a leg off another farmer, Marcel Lauwers.
Parts of the plane were thrown 200 yards but the bulk of the airliner
burst into flames, preventing anyone from approaching until firemen
arrived from the airport.
William de Swarte, director general of Sabena, said tonight that
"something must have gone wrong with the controls of the plane." He said
the plane had recently been through a complete test.
He said that an international convention reached at Chicago provided
that in cases of accidents on international airlines the country in
which the crash occurred could not proceed alone with the inquiry.
Mr. de Swarte said the plane had been in radio contact with the
Brussels Airport from the time it crossed the Belgian coast, a few
minutes before it's scheduled arrival time of 9:50 A.M.
The pilot, Capt. Louis Lambrechts, indicated by radio that everything
was operating perfectly. There was nothing to indicate that anything was
wrong as the plane began to circle the airfield, although the pilot no
longer spoke to the tower.
A farmer named Verhoeven said he watched the plane "try and land twice
and then go up again." He thought it possible that photographs were
being taken from the plane because it was such a beautiful day.
Premier Gaston Eyskens and other members of the cabinet visited the
disaster scene this morning. Mr. Eyskens said the government was "deeply
disturbed by this new tragedy in Belgium and extends it's sympathy to
all those who are bereft."
The lower house of parliment observed a minute of silence for the
victims at the start of it's daily session.
King Visits Crash Scene
King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola visited the crash scene this afternoon.
The King talked with salvage workers as they dug into the wreckage and
uncovered bodies. He and the Queen visited the family of the dead
farmer and went to the hospital where the injured man is in serious
A woman who saw the crash told King Baudouin that she was convinced
that the pilot had come down at a steep angle to avoid crashing into a
row of houses in the center of Berg.
Observers at the airport said that it seemed possible that controls on
one side of the plane had failed to function.
The fact that a Boeing was involved in the crash added to the distress
felt in this country because these planes won the personal regard of the
Belgians during the airlift of Belgian refugees from the Congo last
summer. During the period from July 9 through July 28 the five Sabena
Boeings including the one that crashed today, made sixty-two round trip
flights between Belgium and Africa.
Sabena recently announced that the five Boeing Planes had transported
in one year 139,000 passengers, 2,500 tons of freight and mail and had
covered more than 6,000,000 miles.
--------------------CONCLUSION OF MAIN ARTICLE------------------------
Other articles listed biographies of the individual members of the U.S.
figure skating team, a statement of sympathy from President and Mrs.
Kennedy, an article about the Owen skating family which stated that Mrs.
Gertrude C. Vinson was the sole survivor of the "world famous
Vinson-Owen skating family", and an article which described eyewitness
accounts of the crash, all of which agreed that the plane went down in a
series of "spins" and reported that the engines had sounded "odd", and a
statement that the "Title meet should go on".
Many thanks to Tim Hufnell for his research and assistance in compiling this report.