F-89 Crash in Madison
The following News Article was published in the Capital Times in Madison, WI, on Tuesday, November 24, 1953. It describes the crash of an F-89 into the marsh by Lake Wingra in Madison. The F-89 was flown by pilot Lt. John Schmidt who was a friend and neighbor of Lt. Felix Eugene Moncla Jr., who flew the F-89 lost over Lake Superior later the same day.
2 TRUAX MEN KILLED IN JET'S CRASH HERE
Mechanical Fault Believed to Blame
By June Dieckmann
(State Journal Staff Writer)
Two Truax Field officers, both fathers of families, were killed Monday afternoon when their F-89C Scorpion jet crashed and exploded in the swampy arboretum shoreline of Lake Wingra.
The victims were the pilot, First Lt. John W. Schmidt, 28, a native of Del Rio, Tex., who lived at 10 Sherman terrace, and the radar operator, Capt. Glen E. Collins, 30, of 24 Craig ave., a native of Indianapolis, Ind.
A search for the bodies Monday, with floodlights illuminating the mucky, water holed area over which the disintegrated plane was scattered, was halted until today when a crane was used to lift parts of the plane from where it was buried in mud.
The parachutes of both fliers were found unopened amid the wreckage.
A sudden mechanical failure apparently caused the plane to crash, Truax officials told The Wisconsin State Journal Monday night.
They reasoned that it must have been an abrupt mechanical failure because both Lt. Schmidt and Capt. Collins were war experienced fliers and they were unable to keep the jet aloft long enough to bail out or radio a distress signal.
Board Starts Probe
An Air Force board of inquiry began investigating immediately to determine the exact cause of the crash, if possible.
The force of the explosion shook Madison and suburban homes as far away as two miles, breaking windows in some houses closer by. The nearest homes were about three blocks away on Covall st., just off Arboretum dr.
The roar of the smoking plane, as it zoomed low about 1 p.m. coming from the west over the south side of the city attracted many persons who watched it make the fatal dive.
Witnesses said the plane exploded after crashing with a deadened thud into the marsh.
Parts of the plane flew hundreds of feet in the air, some landing in Lake Wingra and others as far as 500 yards up the shoreline, witnesses reported.
Canopy 400 Yards Away
The planes canopy, which must be removed by automatic controls before the fliers can eject themselves, was found about 400 yards from where the plane crashed. A 20 mm cannon from the plane was found nearly 500 feet away.
The plane dived at an estimated 350 to 400 miles an hour into a patch of marsh reeds just 10 feet from the south ridge of the lake, directly across Lake Wingra from Vilas park.
The crash and the accompanying explosion gouged out a 50-foot "pond" which filled quickly with muddy marsh water to a depth of about 10 feet.
Martin Lemberger, 523 S. Brooks st., a former Navy diver, joined the Air Force searchers. Parts of the plane were recovered from the quicksand-type mud of the "pond".
No Fire Develops
Truax Field firemen sped to the scene, but any flames that accompanied the crash had been extinguished by the force of the explosion and the marsh water. Officials were unable to identify the plane and fliers positively until about two hours after the crash when a red and white striped parachute, resembling an American flag, was pulled from the murky water.
The chute, which was partially unopened in its canvas case, bore a serial number which assured Truax Field officials that the plane had been flown by Lt. Schmidt and Capt. Collins.
The two men had left Truax about 35 minutes earlier, flying alone and in no formation, on a routine training flight.
Pacific War Veterans
Both officers had been stationed at Truax for about two months. Capt. Collins joined the Air Force as an enlisted radar operator in October 1942, and had advanced to the rank of captain after serving in the Pacific theatre during World War II. Lt. Schmidt also was a veteran of pilot duty in the Pacific Theatre during the war.
Surviving the officers are Mrs. Collins and their two daughters, Vicki, 8, a Dudgeon school pupil, and Glenda, 8 months, and Mrs. Schmidt, an expectant mother, and their 20-month-old son, John W. Schmidt Jr.