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Off The Editor’s Desk – 3-26-2014

For the past three weeks the national news media has done a great job of covering the missing Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people on board.

 The Sunday, March 16th edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press did a nice piece about the loss of a Northwest plane over Lake Michigan. According to that story, there is an eerily similar mystery to the unsolved fate of Northwest Orient Airlines flight 2501, which crashed into Lake Michigan in 1950.

According to the Pioneer Press, “at the time, Northwest 2501 was the worst commercial aviation disaster in the U. S. history with 58 people lost. Though debris and body parts were found, the wreckage is still somewhere in Lake Michigan.”

“Valerie van Heest and a dedicated group of volunteers have spent a decade searching for the sunken fuselage and engines of the DC-4.” In an interview with the Pioneer Press, van Heest indicated, “it was their desire to try to solve the mystery, but then it became an effort to provide closure to those families waiting after more than six decades.”

With 55 passengers, two pilots and one stewardess, the plane left La Guardia Airport in New York, on June 23, 1950 with scheduled stops in Minneapolis, Spokane and Seattle. The stewardess was Bonnie Ann Feldman, of Bay City, Wisconsin. She was the sister of a then Glenwood City resident, Beth Oskey, whose husband, Warren, was school principal at the time. The Oskeys later became the owners of the Hiawatha National Bank and Beth now lives in Red Wing, Minnesota.

The airplane crew was notified to the possibility of a thunderstorm over the lake. The plane’s pilot, Robert C. Lind radioed at 11:51 p.m. that he was traveling over Battle Creek, Mich., at 3,500 feet and request to descend to 2,500 but was denied because of other air traffic. As flight 2501 continued over Lake Michigan toward Minneapolis, pilots of four other westbound flights in the area saw the squall line over the lake and turned back.

First it was thought that the plane went down near Milwaukee and that is where the first 48 hours were spent looking for the wreckage in the wrong place, before it was learned that residents on the other side of the lake near South Haven, Mich., had found debris, a doll, clothing and other items with Northwest Airline logos printed on them.

The Pioneer Press story concluded with: van Heest has solved one mystery relating to Flight 2501. Until 2008 none of the families knew what had happened to the human remains recovered from the lake. Van Heest found a man who studied cemetery records, and learned of a notation in the archives of Riverview Cemetery in St. Joseph, Mich., of aircraft victims that had been buried July 1, 1950.

Could the storm that apparently brought down flight 2501 in the early morning hours of June 24, 1950 been the same storm that left damaged buildings in our area? A story in the June 29, 1950 issue of the Glenwood City Tribune carried seven pictures along with the story of damaged farm building and homes that high winds had delivered to this area on the morning of June 23, 1950.

“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” – Dale Carnegie.

Thanks for reading. — Carlton