Thursday, July 12, 2007


Divers not giving up quest to explain 1950 plane crash

By James Prichard
July 12, 2007

GRAND RAPIDS -- The quest to locate the Lake Michigan site where an airliner carrying 58 people went down decades ago could help uncover the cause of the mysterious crash, even if the wreckage itself never is found, says the woman leading the search that again failed to find the plane this spring.

"I feel very strongly that it's not so much finding the wreckage that's going to provide the answers. I think we're getting the answers in the course of the search for the plane," Valerie van Heest said Wednesday from her Holland home.

From late April through late May, the diver and her group, Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates, scoured a 23-square-mile area of the lake off South Haven but found no sign of the crash site of Northwest Airlines Flight 2501. They were helped by a three-member underwater-search team provided by author and shipwreck hunter Clive Cussler. The organization started the search in fall 2004.

Van Heest said she is learning a lot from reading courtroom transcripts she obtained from a liability lawsuit that some of the victims' relatives filed years ago against Northwest. She has read about 300 of the 2,500 pages of transcribed testimony from witnesses and crash experts that she believes has information that will be of help during her next search.

The team also conducted searches in spring 2005 and spring 2006 and plans to return to southern Lake Michigan next year.

The flight, a DC4 carrying 55 passengers and three crew members, originated in New York City and was ultimately bound for Seattle. It crashed June 23, 1950, killing all aboard in the nation's deadliest airliner accident up to that time.

The crash happened during a raging thunderstorm but no cause could be determined.


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