Crash at Rochester Airport; 50 Years Ago

In the afternoon of July 2nd 1963 a Mohawk Airline twin engined Martin 404 crashed seconds after take-off from the Rochester-Monroe County Airport. The plane had been cleared to take off by the control tower even though it had started to rain. It was the first commercial airline crash at the Airport.

The flight, bound for Newark, NJ via White Plains, had taken off during a violent electrical and hail storm. The plane had only made it a few hundred yards when a wingtip hit the ground. Then it lurched from wingtip to wingtip, broke into three pieces and caught on fire. The remains ended up in the mud only about 80 yards off the runway.

Killed were 5 of the 40 passengers along with Capt. Richard M. Dennis and First Officer John Neff. The single stewardess, Miss Mary Anne Miara, survived. All the rest of the passengers were injured. Some survivors had crawled out through a large hole in the side of the fuselage.

A couple of contractors working on building a new runway were first on the scene of the crash and pulled survivors out of the debris. Airport personnel arrived quickly after that and put out the flames. Ambulances and fire crews then came from many surrounding towns.

Injured passengers were taken to Strong Memorial Hospital where every available doctor and nurse rushed into action. Taxis had to bring extra blood to the hospital from the local Red CRoss. Injures were as small as bruises and as bad as major burns, lost limbs, and head injuries.

None of the deceased passengers were from the Rochester area. Besides the 2 pilots those killed were: Jerrold Kurts of Harrison, NY, Thomas Callinan of Yorktown Hts., NY, Morris Falk of Cos Cob, CT, Lee O’Dell of Westport, Ct and Roy E. Drew of Pelham, NY.

Months later during hearings by the Civil Aeronautics Board (now NTSB), it was determined that the pilot should have waited for the weather to clear even though he had clearance for take off.