By the time Americans received their Sunday morning papers on January 18, the headlines changed from Carole Lombard being “feared” dead to being a confirmed casualty.
Carole Lombard Among 22 Killed in Air Crash
Blonde, carefree screen actress Carole Lombard, her mother and 20 other occupants of a luxurious TWA skysleeper crashed to flaming death last night on 8,5000-foot Table mountain.
Searchers on horseback reached the scene today, nearly 18 hours later, and found the shattered wreckage, with bodies scattered for hundreds of yards up the mountain’s face/
Because 15 army ferry pilots were aboard, army guards were sent to the scene to take charge. A patrol also barred the highway into the mountains to sightseers.
Pending on the spot investigations by army and coroner’s officers, there was no indication how or when the bodies would be brought out. A grueling, 11-mile hike to Goodsprings, at the base of the mountain, would be necessary to bring the victims to hearses/
Undersheriff Glenn Jones reported from Jean, Nev., that the big 21-passenger craft apparently hut at full speed. Many of the victims were burned beyond recognition.
Thus ended the idyllic marriage of the actress and Clark Gable, idol of thousands of moviegoers. When the word came, a distraught Gable was on his way into the mountains to join personally in the search.
For hours he had paced a hotel room, refusing to be consoled by friends. Soon after noon he announced he could wait no longer. he and Sheriff M.E. Ward headed into the mountains.
his face was drawn and lined. Dark glasses hid bloodshot eyes. Accompanying him were Howard Strickling, publicity chief at his studio, MGM, and A.T.G. Steffes, Los Angeles attorney.
Gable, who learned of the crash as he waited for his wife to return from an eastern defense bond selling trip, had flown here early today from Hollywood.
It took hardened trackers more than six hours on horseback to force their way through the rugged, trackless Potosi mountains. Their search was slowed by terrain which made progress afoot impossible.
Army guards, led to the scene by Major Herbert Anderson, commanding the army’s gunnery school here, took charge.
The search had been underway since soon after 7 o’clock (PST) last night, when miners in an isolated canyon reported hearing an explosive crash and a pilot of another airline had spotted the blazing pyre.
Aboard the west bound craft, which left Las Vegas at 7:07pm, were three civilian passengers beside Miss Lombard, 15 soldiers attached to the army ferry command, and three crew members.
With Miss Lombard were her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth K. Peters, and Otto Winkler, MGM publicity man and close friend of the Gables. Winkler drove the couple to Kingman, Ariz., to be married two years ago.
The air corps ferry command at Long beach, Calif., said the soldiers were returning to the coast for new assignments. All boarded the plane at Albuquerque, N.M., where four civilians left the plane to make room for the military party.
Miss Lombard, 32, one of the most popular and successful actresses in Hollywood, was returning from a defense bond sales trip to Indianapolis. The former Jane Peters of Fort Wayne, Ind., had sold nearly $2,500,000 worth of bonds Thursday.
Hollywood friends heard that the plane trip was her idea, opposed both by her mother and Winkler. She had gone east by train. Gable, chairman of an actor’s committee in charge of bond sales personal appearances, himself had assigned her.
From scanty reports reaching here, the big 21-passenger Douglas-built liner apparently crashed in snow at an elevation of about 8,000 feet on Table mountain.
Neither TWA, army nor civilian aeronautics authorities would comment on the cause of the probably explosion.
A veteran pilot, Capt. Wayne Williams, 41, was in charge. He had logged 12,000 hours and 1,500,000 miles in the air. his co-pilot was Morgan A. Gillette, 25. Alice Getz, 25, was stewardess.
Witness Tells of Scene in Mountains Where Plane Made Fatal Crash
by G.C. “Buck” Blaine
I got within one half mile of the TWA plane wreckage with my horse.
The snow was up to the animal’s belly and she could go no farther. So I tried her to a tree and started climbing the red rock. It was straight up about 50 feet.
It appeared that the plane had needed either 250 or 275 feet more altitude to clear the mountain. the nose had hit the precipice and had skidded around in a narrow ravine until the tail had also hit the cliff. The occupants were thrown out the left hand side of the plane and were scattered for 150 feet.
Recognizable were the bodies of a lieutenat, a sergeant, an enlisted man, a TWA employee and a woman. The plane had burned and molten aluminim had dropped over the rocks for 25 to 30 feet.
Luggage and other equipment were strewn for 500 to 600 feet. The snow is about three feet deep on the north side of the mountain where the plane is located.
It will be necessary to carry the bodies 1/2 or two miles on sleds, or for the possemen to carry them until they can reach the point where they can leave horses. From there it will be about two miles to the place where the cars can be left.
The location of the wreckage is in the saddle of an almost precipitous mountain. Rescuers must zig-zag to make a path so that officials can walk up to the scene. It probably will take from daylight until noon tomorrow to beat a path and reach the bodies.