Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Finding The Lost Plane...My Father's Account!

Tad's Story...
When I wrote about the Lost Plane a few months ago, I was writing the story for my grandchildren to read.  My information came mostly from newspaper accounts, my grandmother's scrapbook and stories Grandpa Mel told me.  My father, Thomas A. Devey (TAD) was only a toddler at the time of the crash.  A few years ago, he sat down and began writing his personal history which included a chapter on the Lost Plane.  We had never talked about the crash...I would have liked to have heard his version of what happened.  Here are some excerpts from his account:

"...like a Hollywood drama..."
Tad writes, "...After several weeks and still no sightings, the crash was beginning to play out like a Hollywood drama, complete with romance, suspense and mystery.  The stewardess had recently been involved in a romantic triangle, some of the passengers were socialites and the plane was rumored to have carried a very valuable package in its cargo of mail.  And on top of all of this, the plane seemed to vanish into thin air.

Thin air is an appropriate term.  The actual crash site was at about 11,000 feet in elevation.  The plane hit the top of a granite ridge, only a few feet below the summit.  The force of the impact destroyed the plane and most of the parts bounced over the top and down into Hogum Canyon, a distance of about 500 feet.  There it was immediately covered with several feet of new snow.

Sounds in the night...
My family was living at the top of Fort Canyon above Alpine [Utah].  In those days most rural houses were not equipped with indoor plumbing and ours was no exception.  My father, Albert Melvin Devey, was making his nightly trip to the outhouse when he heard a plane fly over.  It was overcast and he could see no lights.  It was not unusual  for a plane to fly directly over what we called the North Mountain [Lone Peak], however in those days it usually happened during the day.  Dad had noticed that when a plane flew over the top of the mountain, the sound of the engines gradually faded.  In this case, the noise ended abruptly...[it appeared]to be coming from slightly east of the house in Fort Canyon.

After returning to the house, he told my mother what he had heard.  The next day, the newspapers reported that the airplane was missing.  When the plane had not been found within a few days, Dad became curious [about] the plane he had heard.  He had a chance to talk to several other people who also claimed to have heard the plane fly over and he became more convinced that the plane he had heard and the missing plane were one and the same.

The picture, from Zetta's scrapbook, is of Will Healey and Frank Bateman who found some mail from the plane.

Tad continues...
"...With the arrival of early spring, searchers made their way up Dry Creek Canyon to an area where many springs surfaced forming a bog.  Traces of oil were found floating on the water in the bog, [bringing] renewed interest in the area.  [Unfortunately] the traces of oil proved to be naturally occurring vegetable oil which is found on the water in swamps every where.  The increased interest did pay off however.  Two men from Alpine were searching in Dry Creek Canyon when they came upon letters which obviously had been carried aboard the plane...[proving] the wreck was in the general area.

 Now the search began in earnest.  The airline set up camp in upper Dry Creek.  They hired men and horses to carry supplies and to conduct a complete search, even going to the extent of having lines of men armed with long metal poles probing the snow banks of the area.

Dad and his friend Emery Andrews were both farming on their respective properties in Fort Canyon.  As the trail got hotter, their interest grew.  They decided they would pool their knowlege of the area and of the circumstances surrounding the crash.  They would each go on the mountain on opposite days, reporting where they had been and what they had seen...After a few weeks of looking into all the nooks and crannies of the lower elevation...they came to the conclusion that the wreck had occurred high on the mountain.

Dad went over the published reports of the accounts of witnesses and he talked to several local people who claimed to have heard the plane...and came to the conclusion that the crash mush have occurred somewhere around Lake Hardy.

Panoramic shot of Lake Hardy taken by Nathan Terry.

The wreckage is found...
"It was the first of June and most of the snow had melted from the lower areas.  Lying in bed, he decided that when he went back on the mountain, he would search the mountain above Lake Hardy.  Two days later, he arrived at the summit of the ridge north of Lake Hardy.  On the top of the mountain was a scar where the plane had hit, and some small pieces of metal showing through the snow cover.  He picked up a piece of metal and proceeded down into Dry Creek where he located an airline official.  They returned back up the mountain.  On the way they met another man from Alpine.  He also was carrying a piece of metal from the plane.

When they reached the summit, the airline official confirmed that the area was definitely the crash site and that Dad had been the one to discover it.  This was important, because there was a posted reward of $1000 to whoever could locate the wreck.

"Now $1000 does not sound like much, but in 1937 it was a fortune!  Dad decided that he would split the reward four ways...equal amounts to the two men who had found the letters, to Emery Andrews, and to himself.  This may have sounded like a good plan, but someone else had other ideas.  The other man who had found the piece of wreckage the same day, claimed to have be the first one to find the plane.  It took a court hearing to determine that the other man was employed by the airline and that employees of the airline were specifically excluded from sharing in the reward."

To be continued...
My father's account continues with recovery efforts and life after the discovery of the wreckage.  I will continue his story in another chapter.  I'm so glad my father took the time to write down his stories.  I can't wait to share more of them with you.  I was prompted to post this today because two bloggers I follow, A Vintage Chic and 521 Lake Street have inspired me this week with their family stories. 

Thank you!


retrorevival.biz said...

Quite a story! So nice that you're documenting it for your family. Have you turned your blog into a book? You should consider it, especially with all this great family information!


Lynn said...

What a great story! It is wonderful that your father is writing down his memories.

LBP said...

That is so interesting! How lucky that your father has a written account of what happened. I sometimes look at photos of relatives and wish I could know their story. Can't wait to hear more about this!



E said...

Shirley I love the story I think the blogging is such a great way to share family history and I really enjoy reading the stories of others it really gives me a look into the world surrounding my ancestors. Thanks for sharing, and I looove the house you made in the other post Elaine

mississippi artist said...

Fascinating story. It is wonderful that you are documenting this for future generations.