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DaveTrojan

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 #46 
Russ,
Were you born the same year as the plane crash? Do you like to fly?
Maybe you are reincarnated from one of the crew members.
strange but true, maybe?
DaveT 
russfarris

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 #47 
Nope Dave - born Christmas Day, 1954. And I must like to fly since I passed the 23,000 hour mark recently.  But I did instruct in DC-3s - I'm familiar with the poor stall behavior so I can imagine what these guys went through in the last moments of their lives. It's still pretty weird they landed on my favorite automobile make!

Russ Farris
SaxMan

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 #48 
Hi Russ, I do not know what year the Studebaker was or which model.   I will ask John Anderson's son what he recalls the next time I speak or correspond with him.  There was a second car parked next to the Studebaker that also suffered some damage.  My guess is if the impact crater was ever excavated, we'd probably find some Studebaker bits and pieces still in there, although it's possible the Capital Airlines mechanics pulled out that wreckage, too, since they were intermingled.

Astoundingly, Capital lost another DC-3 in a similar mishap on June 4, 1958 in Martinsburg, WV.   This time they were practicing the "abandon approach" at the airport, and they had the same vicious tip stall.   The difference was the DC-3 impacted at a 30 degree angle, versus the near 90 degree angle of the Clarksburg crash.   All three crew initially survived the crash, although the trainee pilot was badly burned and died the next day.   After this crash, Capital changed their training regimen and practiced the "abandon approach" at altitudes high enough to be able to recover from a stall.

I was able to uncover another witness, this is the brother of June Norwood, the next door neighbor who uttered the line "Mother, the airplane is chasing me".  I'm hoping he can give me his account as well as help point me to June.  I am also trying to find the daughters of Hank Podgurski, who was one of the crew.   The big obstactle, of course, is that when they presumably got married, they no longer had their maiden name.

I have written up an account combining all the sources that I've interviewed or researched.  I'm at around 3,500 words and still plugging away.   An early edit has now become the official account for Montgomery Parks, who owns the land.

What amazes me about this process is that every person I talk to, or every source I research, seems to open up another door on a topic that is worth following up.  For instance, my interview with a former Capital Airlines pilot has led me to start researching Capital's acquisition and operation of the Viscount, which gave them a qualitative edge on their competition for a few short years.
DaveTrojan

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 #49 
You can take an investigation as far as you want to go. I believe that when you can bring a sense of closure to those involved and document some history the job is finished. 
DaveT
SaxMan

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 #50 
My goal is twofold:  First, to try to document as many accounts as possible from the shrinking number of witnesses and second is to have a memorial / plaque erected.   If these accounts open up other doors that are worthy of pursuit...why not?

I've begun to learn more about Podgurski's wartime record.   He enlisted in the RCAF before Pearl Harbor in the Sergeant Pilot program.  He transferred to the AAF in March 1943 and became part of the 93rd BG.  He flew as a co-pilot on the "Liberty Lad", including the Ploesti mission of 8/1/43.  The Liberty Lad had two engines shot out and was heavily damaged, yet McFarland and Podgurski brought her home, much to the amazement of the ground crews.   After 14 hours of flying, both had to be lifted out of the cockpit. 

Podgurski completed his tour with the 93rd, then spent some time flying C-87s (CB-24?) with the 27th Air Transport Group before serving another combat tour with the 494th BG.   He stayed in the Air Force after the war rising to the rank of Captain before leaving the USAF for civilian life and a position at Capital Airlines
SaxMan

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 #51 
Doing a bit more research on the "Liberty Lad"...she had the distinction of being the last plane to return from the Ploesti raid on August 1, 1943.   As she came in on final, her two functioning engines quit.
SaxMan

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 #52 
Continuing to research the Podgurski family, I came up with a bit of a disappointment today:  Henry Podgurski's eldest daughter passed away in 2007.  Even more disappointing was that she lived in Gaithersburg, the next town to the south of where I live.  I'm hoping there is additional family in the area to track down.  It appears from her obituary that she lived in the D.C. area since the 1970s, but there is no indication that she ever knew of the spot where her father died. 

The younger daughter is apparently still alive, as is Helen Podgurski, Henry's wife.   However, she has a fairly common surname (Stone), which will certainly make finding her a bit difficult. 
SaxMan

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 #53 
Update:  5/28/13

 I've tracked down contact information for several members of the Podgurski family. My quandry is who and how I should reach out to them. Here are my options:

Henry Podgurski's widow: She is 92 years old, never remarried, apparently still lives on her own (definitely not in an old age home). I've ruled out calling, I think that would be too much of a shock. I was thinking of writing a letter, but again, would that still be a shock, and how would I know if she even read it or tossed it out like junk mail?

Podgurksi's Son-in-law: Son in law is in his late 60s. He was married to the crew member's oldest daughter (who was 14 at the time of the accident), but the daughter passed in 2007 to cancer. I was thinking of reaching out to him to ask about contact information for the younger daughter (who is still alive, but hard to locate because of her very common married surname). However, would reaching out to him be opening a can of worms, since the daughter has passed.

Podgurski's Granddaughter: Granddaughter is in 30s and also lives locally. She has children as well, who would be the great-grandchildren of the crew member. My guess is she probably doesn't know too much about her grandfather. She lives in fairly close proximity to the crash site, but has never visited or inquired about the site, at least since 2001 when the current tenant moved in.

I've never been gun-shy about picking up the phone and cold calling people for interviews, but the person I'm calling is usually the subject of my research, or has something to add to my research. In this case, because I'm dealing with someone who died under unfortunate circumstances, I don't want to inflict any more hurt on the family.


DaveTrojan

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 #54 
Just do it. 
Contact the people involved. The worst that can happen is that they say No, or that they are not interested. 
speaking from experience, most people will be interested and receptive. 
DaveT
Brad

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 #55 
I would recommend contacting the son in law. He should know about the crash and can give insight if the wife would be receptive to speaking with you. Just my two cents.
Brad
SaxMan

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 #56 
I ended up speaking with another source:  Podgurski's grandson, who is a pilot as well.   I found him on Facebook. I think he was a bit shocked to hear from me, but was genuinely interested in what I had to say.   We didn't talk too long, as he wanted to go speak with other family members.   It probably was a good move to not contact Podgurski's wife as he intimated that the accident had a devastating effect on the family.   What I didn't know was that Podgurski's wife was pregnant with a son at the time of the crash.  When he revealed that information, I couldn't help but let out a gasp.   That information was never reported in any of the news accounts of the time.

We did agree to keep communicating, and it is quite likely that we will meet up at a later date to go to the crash site.   I'm still a bit stunned by it all. 
SaxMan

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 #57 
Podgurski's grandson got back to me and indicated that his grandmother was willing to speak to me.   We're going to talk in the next few days.  After the initial call to the grandson, I began wondering if I had made the right decision to reach out to the family.   The grandson made it clear that he was very glad that I did. 

I guess when things start getting on a roll, they really start rolling.  This evening, I located relatives of Carl Burke, the instructor pilot and have reached out to them as well.   That just leaves me with Robert Thomas, and so far, there has been very little information forthcoming.
SaxMan

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 #58 
I spoke with Podgurski's widow this evening.   She was able to help me fill in some of the blanks, but there were a lot of details that as she admitted, had been blocked out, and I did not feel it was my place or appropriate to pry.   The information that she did give me was useful, though.

Podgurski mustered out after the war and did not fly.   He went to an engineering school for a while, but soon found that he wanted to fly again.   He went to a flight school in Florida to reacquire his pilots license and was hired by Capital in January 1952 upon completion of training.  By June 1957, he had enough tenure at Capital to be upgraded to Captain, which was done by seniority at Capital.   While about half of Podgurski's hours were in the DC-3, he hadn't had much recent experience at the time of the training, as he had spent most of his recent flight time as a copilot on the Viscount. 

I think that last detail is critical.   While transitioning from the DC-3 to the Viscount was not a big deal, the reverse may have been difficult.  Podgurski only had 2 hours of DC-3 time in the transition training and Thomas had 3 1/2 hours.   From pilot's that I've interviewed, the consensus was that if you got yourself into a tough spot with the DC-3, it would turn around and really bite you, and that's sounds like what happened in this case.  Once the airspeed ran out, the plane went into a roll and subsequent spin.

We didn't dwell too much on the aftermath.  She indicated it was a very rough time, but they made it, and she imagined the other families went through what she did.

She also spoke a bit on her husband's wartime record, but she really couldn't fill me in on too many details other than his initial decision to go to Canada for flight training with the RAF.   Apparently, his log books may still be within the family, so I've asked the grandson to see if he can track them down.  
DaveTrojan

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 #59 
you have done an honorable job of investigation this whole story. What are the future plans now that you have all this info? I recommend that you may want to compile it all and give a copy to the local library and or Air Museum so that others can read all about it. Also any thought about a memorial near the site? 
DaveT
SaxMan

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 #60 
DaveT - this whole project was done under the auspices and approval of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a quasi-governmental organization that currently owns the land as part of Little Bennett Regional Park.   I volunteer with the Commission's police department as a dispatcher and patroller as well as being involved with the trail maintenance and leading night mountain bike rides at the park.  It didn't take much to get approval from the historical branch to "run with the ball" on this project.

The plans are to have a memorial erected near the site.   Within the next few years, the park's frontage on Frederick Road, MD 355 is going to be developed into a "day use" area with tennis courts, playgrounds etc.   It is about a 1/2 mile south of the actual site, but would be the closest part of the park to the crash site that is accessible to the public.  The plan is to have a memorial erected in this part of the park as a tribute not only to the three men who passed, but the citizens of Clarksburg who all came together to render assistance.    Having the support of the Anderson family (the people who were residing in the house at the time of the crash) and now the Podgurski family has definitely increased the odds of being able to make this happen.

Long term, at some point the current tenant will likely leave the property, although he has been there since 2001, so I don't see this happening anytime soon.   Based on what the Commission has done with the properties adjacent to the crash site, the home will eventually be demolished and the area returned to a more natural state.   It still will remain fairly inaccessible from the rest of the park.  There are plans for a natural surface trail to pass within a few hundred yards of the site, and we may put a secondary marker there, or perhaps even make a small "spur" from the trail to go to the site.
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