Off Provincetown, MA – October 17, 1949

Off Provincetown, Massachusetts – October 17, 1949 

Updated January 21, 2022

     On October 17, 1949, a Piper PA-16 Clipper, (Reg. No. N5608H), belonging to the Cape Cod Flying Service left Boston Airport at 11:50 a.m. bound for Provincetown.  There were five people aboard: a 26-year-old pilot, two women, and the two children of one of the women, an infant, and another aged two-and-half.     

     The 45-mile trip was to be made almost entirely over the water.   When the plane was about ten minutes from its destination, and about six miles off the coast, the pilot radioed that he was having engine trouble and would have to make had an emergency landing in the water.  The pilot made a successful landing about five miles off Race Point, and the occupants found themselves in the cold water as the plane sank in 180 feet of water.   

     Other aircraft of the Cape Cod Flying Service, as well as navy aircraft and Coast Guard boats raced to the scene, but by the time help arrived the plane’s occupants had all succumbed to hypothermia.   The bodies of the three adults were recovered by the Coast Guard vessel Acushnet.  Coastguardsmen did artificial respiration on the three victims as they raced to port, but without success. 

   The aircraft was later brought to the surface in the nets of a fishing boat and investigation revealed that a broken exhaust valve stem was the cause of the engine failure.  The stem had then gone into the cylinder where it had been crushed against the piston rod, causing the rod to bend.  The piston then became locked in place preventing the other from operating.  It was reported that “this cause of plane engine failure is practically unheard of.”  The aircraft was only five months old. 


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “3 Killed, 2 Babies Missing At Sea”, October 18, 1949

The Spartanburg Herald, ‘Plane Crash Claims 3”, October 18, 1949

The Kingston (N.Y.) Daily Freeman, “Five Are Killed Off Provincetown In Airplane Crash”, October 18, 1949

New York Times, “Five Die As Plane Crashes Into Sea” October 18, 1949

The Provincetown Advocate, “Coast Guard Officials Begin Probe Of rescue Effort After Plane Crash”, October 20, 1949

The Provincetown Advocate: “”Cause Is Learned For Engine Failure In Tragic Plane Crash Off Race Point”, October 27, 1949.

The North Adams Transcript, (Mass.), “Mother And 2 babies Included Among 5 Lost In Plane Crash”, October 18, 1949, pg. 1.

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