Transport: On Cheat Mountain

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In natty grey and yellow uniforms, four excited, rosy-faced boys from Valley Forge Military Academy boarded one of TWA's Douglas airliners at Camden, N. J. one morning last week. They were going to homes in & around Pittsburgh for Easter vacation. One had been given the air trip by his parents as a reward for high marks. Also on board was Mrs. Meyer C. Ellenstein, wife of the Mayor of Newark, bound for St. Louis to visit a daughter. The plane's hostess was a neat, slight, dark girl of 22 named Nellie Granger. The chief pilot, Otto Ferguson, had been flying since the War. This was his 42nd birthday and his family had arranged a party for him at Kansas City.

Booming along between 3,000 and 4,000 ft., the Sun Racer crossed the Alleghenies in a cold fog. Over the radiotelephone from the airport at Pittsburgh came reassuring word of good visibility below 1,700 ft. Pilot Ferguson listened to the staccato hum of the radio-beacon in his earphones, reported his position as ten miles east of Pittsburgh, said he was coming down to land. Nellie Granger poked her head into the pilot's cabin, asked him what time they would be down. Said Ferguson, "About 10:12." The hostess went aft, saw that the eleven passengers had clasped their safety belts.

At the Pittsburgh airport the minutes ticked by. At 10:33 a TWA plane landed, but it was not the Sun Racer. Soon the air was full of monotonous, unanswered calls: Pittsburgh calling Flight I. . . . Columbus calling Ferguson on Flight I. . . . Camden calling Flight I. . . . Pittsburgh calling Flight I. . . .

Nearly four hours later a woman who lives in the mountains near Uniontown, Pa., and who has the only telephone in her neighborhood, saw a bruised and bloody girl in a torn, singed uniform stumbling up to her door, escorted by a neighbor. The girl gasped that she must use the telephone. She called a number, clutched the instrument for support, steadied her voice when she got an answer. 'Mr. Williams, this is Nellie Granger, hostess on Flight I. The ship crashed and started to burn. . . . Both Otto Ferguson and Lewis [the copilot] were killed. . . . Nine passengers were killed. . . ."

Nellie Granger, registered nurse, insisted on returning to the wreck with mountaineers. Near the smoking debris of the Sun Racer they found still alive the two passengers who had occupied seats Nos. 7 and 11. One was Mrs. Ellenstein, with two broken legs, the other a Cleve-lander named Challinor, whose ankles were shattered. Miss Granger ministered to them as best she could until State troopers arrived. Later, in a hospital, the hostess could not remember exactly what had happened. She thought she had been able to pull the Newark Mayor's wife and Challinor from the cabin before the heat drove her off. Then she floundered through the snowy underbrush until she came upon a muddy road.

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