Today in New Orleans History

February 25

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Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 Crashes into Lake Pontchartrain

February 25, 1964

Eastern Air Lines Flight 304 was a Douglas DC-8 flying from New Orleans International Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport that crashed on February 25, 1964. All 51 passengers and 7 crew were killed. Among the dead were American opera singer and actor Kenneth Lee Spencer and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, a women's and human rights activist and member of the French delegation to the United Nations.

The DC-8, Flight 304, which originated in Mexico City, left New Orleans International Airport for Atlanta at 3:01 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, and disappeared from radar at 3:10 a.m. Visibility was good, although there was a light rain. The winds were calm. The Coast Guard and other searchers sighted the wreckage around dawn in Lake Pontchartrain, about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of New Orleans. Eastern said 51 passengers and a crew of seven were aboard. The subsequent investigation concluded that the plane crashed into Lake Pontchartrain en route due to "degradation of aircraft stability characteristics in turbulence, because of abnormal longitudinal trim component positions."

At least 32 of the passengers were making the through trip. Fourteen got on in New Orleans, while 14 were pass-riding Eastern employees. The four-engined plane, capable of carrying 126 passengers, was due in Atlanta at 3:59 a.m., at Dulles Airport in Washington at 5:53 a.m. and at Kennedy Airport in New York at 7:10 a.m.

The victims included Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, a member of the French delegation the United Nations, who was active in women's and human rights activities of the world body. The pilot, Capt. William B. Zeng, 47 years old, lived with his wife and seven children on a farm at Ringoes, N. J. Captain Zeng, with Eastern 21 years, had flown over five million miles. The co-pilot. Grant R. Newby, 40, of Manhattan, had almost two million miles on his flight log.

Coast Guard recovered parts of the wreckage, clothing, luggage and what was described as bits of bodies from a wide spread area centered 6 miles (10 km) south of the north shore of the lake and about 4 miles (6 km) east of the 23-mile (37 km)-long Lake Pontchartrain causeway. A Coast Guard pilot said there were indications that the plane had exploded either in the air or on impact. Eastern said that the crew had made the routine checks after take-off and that no alarm had been given. An experienced Eastern pilot said the jet had probably reached a height of 16,000 feet shortly after it had got over the lake.

The New York Times, February 26, 1964

Only 60% of the wreckage was recovered.  (WIKI)

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In a memorandum to District Attorney Jim Garrison dated February 25, 1967, chief investigator from Louis Ivon wrote to Garrison: RE: CLAY BERTRAND -- To ascertain the location of one CLAY BERTRAND, I put out numerous inquiries and made contact with several sources in the French Quarter area. From the information we have obtained concerning this subject, I'm almost positive from my contacts that they would have known or heard of a CLAY BERTRAND. The information I received was negative results.  On February 22, 1967, I was approached by "BUBBIE" PETTINGILL in the Fountainbleu Motor Hotel, located on Tulane Avenue, whom I had earlier contacted about CLAY BERTRAND. He stated that DEAN ANDREWS admitted to him that CLAY BERTRAND never existed.

Photo of  Leonard Grosz, Sr., Charles Grosz, Mayor Morrison, and Joseph H. Reising, Mrs. Victor O. Grosz, Sr., Victor O. Grosz, and Mrs. Harry E. Davis, February 25, 1961.

Sketches of Rex floats for Mardi Gras day, February 25, 1941, with the theme "Gems From the Arabian Nights".

Municipal ordinances regarding wood construction: RESOLVED, that from the present resolution's enactment approved June 24, 1816, Ordinance entitled "Ordinance to prevent the construction of building in the City of New Orleans with wood, relative to the construction of houses and other buildings in said City" and the dispositions of the Ordinance approved February 25, 1822 entitled "Supplemental Ordinance to the Ordinance prohibiting the construction of houses and other buildings with wood" as well as the dispositions of the Ordinance approved May 28, 1828, relative to the repairs of houses shall be extended and applied to that part of Ste. Marie's Faubourg located between Camp, New Levee, Common & Delord Streets as well as that part of the City from lower Rampart Street between St. Louis, Basin, Canal Streets, and that part of the Batture and both sides of New Levee stree between Delord & Roffignac.

On February 25, 1802, Governor Salcedo announced to the Cabildo that he had formed a board of health.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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