Transport: Worst & First

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Deep in the hot valley between the snowy volcanoes of Popocatépetl ("Smoking Mountain") and Ixtaccihuatl ("White Woman") Mexican peons in the hamlet of Amecameca one day last week were aroused from their mid-morning siesta by the noise of an airplane. Looking up, they spied an old trimotored Ford belonging to Compania Mexicana de Aviación, a subsidiary of Pan American Airways Chartered half an hour before by Hamburg-American Line, the plane was chugging its way from Mexico City to Guatemala. The courteous Mexican pilot had detoured from the regular course because he wished to show his country's most celebrated peaks to Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, who renounced the throne of a tiny Teutonic principality in 1918; his wife; Baron Siegmund von Stieber; seven other European trippers.

As the old plane droned up the steep pass beyond the tree line, its motors suddenly coughed. Back at once circled the pilot in search of a landing place. Before he could find one, his plane was caught in a strong air current, slithered downward, crashed in a fountain of flame on the rocky saddle between the two dormant volcanoes. When rescuers climbed up over the mountain flank, most of the 14 bodies were incinerated beyond recognition.

Worst air accident in Mexican history, the crack-up was the first mishap of any kind in the twelve-year career of Compania Mexicana de Aviación.