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Plane Crash in McDowell County

Welch Daily News
July 2, 1942


Suggests Airport Might Have Prevented Mishap

Attorney Solins Asks Congressmen To Revive Project

That completion of the Welch municipal airport might have prevented Wednesday’s airplane tragedy is suggested by Attorney Samuel Solins in a letter sent late yesterday to Senator Harley Kilgore and Congressman John Kee.

Mr. Solins wrote the letter before the full extent of the death toll was known. Also, since he wrote the letter, several persons have told of seeing the plane circling over the Iaeger community and also Twin Branch, apparently trying to find a landing place.

Mr. Solin’s letter follows:

July 1, 1941.
Senator H. M. Kilgore, and Congressman John Kee,
Washington, D. C.

Gentlemen:

About noon today a terrible tragedy took place in our county. An army plane carrying a minimum of 16 uniformed soldiers crashed four miles from Welch, resulting in the death of at least 16 men thus far found.

Here in Welch the Civil Aeronautics Administration, Airport Division, of Washington, had the matter under consideration for completing an airport that had once been started and left about 60 per cent completed by the federal works agency, Works Progress Administration.

The writer, as one of a committee appointed by the Chamber of Commerce of Welch to take the matter up with Senator Kilgore and other officials, had this matter up for attention by correspondence with Senator Kilgore from our committee as of September 3, 1941, but nothing ever came of the matter.

The Federal Works Agency, of Huntington, West Virginia, sent its representative in September to Welch and the writer, with his fellow committeemen, namely Mr. Roy Shrout and Dr. F. E. LaPrade, went over the matter with the representative, but unfortunately we could not find the funds in this community that the government required to complete the airport.

The airport thus far to date represents an expenditure by the government of a minimum of $80,000.00. The land itself was furnished by the town of Welch, a municipal corporation. The city engineer of the town of Welch informs me that in time, labor, equipment, etc., the city of Welch has contributed no less than 20 or 25 per cent of the money thus far invested.

For some reason or other the Works Progress Administration of West Virginia ceased work when the appropriation was exhausted. The Welch airport was originally started under FERA several years ago.

The Welch airport is ideally located, being on top of a mountain, free from high tension wires, poles or any other obstruction, and is visible to any pilot or to anyone operating an aircraft in this territory.

It is very evident from the circumstances involving the crash of the army plane that they were seeking an emergency landing and had the Welch airport been completed, it is not violating the conscience of any responsibly minded person to reach the conclusion that there could have been a landing without the resulting fatalities.

There is hardly a day that goes by but what at least two or more large planes go over the town of Welch and to say nothing of the greater number of planes that go over the area of this county and there is no landing field within an area of fifty miles. Due to the terrain of this area, it is almost prohibitive for an emergency landing field to be established, other than to complete the one the government once undertook but abandoned here in Welch.

I know of no better project for the future safety of men in the armed forces of our country who are called upon to fly over this territory, than for the government to step in at this time and complete the airport in Welch.

In behalf of our committee, who is acting not only for the Welch Chamber of Commerce but for all the civic clubs of our county, as well as the American Legion, I am asking you to take up at this time with the proper authority the matter of immediately starting the work to complete the Welch airport.

Yours truly,
SAMUEL SOLINS.


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