DISASTER: One-Way Ticket

Shortly after midnight, 76 sweltering Puerto Ricans and five crew members jammed into a reconverted war-surplus Curtiss Commando twin-engined plane at San Juan, P.R. The first passengers aboard grabbed the leatherette bus seats in the middle aisle. The late ones squeezed into bucket seats along the walls. Five infants snuggled in their parents' laps. Pilot Alfred O. Cockrill of Pittsfield, Mass., late of the Naval Air Transport service, took off, headed northwest for Miami, on the way to New York.

The plane had barely cleared San Juan Bay when the right engine, pounding for altitude, sputtered and conked out. There...

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