AUGUST 9, 1970

CUZCO, PERU

                   



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This site is under intensive construction [many hyperlinks have not been completed], but I'm truly working like a dog, with all my heart. Steve Feldman

 

 

On August 9, 1970, at 2:46 p.m., a Lockheed Electra crashed and burned, moments after takeoff, in San Jeronimo, Peru.

At the time, it was the worst aviation accident in Peruvian history, claiming 101 lives. Ninety-nine crew and passengers were killed on the plane; two farmers perished on the ground.

Among those who died were forty-nine American high school students, who were 14 to 18 years old. They had been spending 6 weeks in Peru on an exchange program sponsored by International Fellowship, of  Buffalo, New York.

Many pictures were taken of the students as they toured the ruins of Macchu Picchu, met the mayor of Lima, and boarded the doomed aircraft. The sole survivor, 26-year-old student co-pilot Juan Loo, was found,  badly burned, in a tree. He recovered fully, and now lives in the United States.

Fifteen exchange students did not take the flight, remaining behind to attend to personal matters. One, Susan Rabe Oakes, remained in Lima for her birthday party. She is now happily married, and lives in South Carolina. 

On August 10, 1970, Walter Cronkite, on the CBS Evening News, called the students "the best we [as a nation] have." The New York Daily News said they were "standouts in one way or another;" The New York Post called them "examples of American youth at its finest;" and the Associated Press said they were "the best that their communities could offer." The New York Times, and many other newspapers throughout the United States, carried the story on the cover.

Less than a month after the crash, The New York Times reported, on September 4, 1970, page 56, column 8, that the Peruvian government said pilot error "probably" caused the crash. Peru's Transportation and Communications Minister, Meza Cuadra, said that the engine that failed on take-off had exceeded the number of hours allowed by regulations.

The prosecuting attorney in Cuzco, Peru, instituted penal proceedings against Lansa, the national airline, and five of its officers, due to equipment failure, inadequate maintenance, and pilot error.  He said that, when the Directorate of Civil Aviation investigated the accident, the airline hid--and then tried to subsitute--a false "work-sheet," because it contained a report on the defective mechanical condition of the plane, which had previously been observed on the in-bound flight from Lima to Cuzco.

The Government of Peru, which concluded the plane was overloaded, suspended the line's operations for 90 days and fined it 100,000 soles.

A year after the crash, a memorial book, entitled "August 9, 1970, Cuzco, Peru," was published by the parents of Ardeth Marshall. It chronicled the lives of the students: class presidents; honor students; linguists; valedictorians.

A monument, erected in Peru, marked the site of the crash. It stands to this day, honoring the lives of 49 teenage Americans.

To their families, their friends, and their nation, they were truly the best we had.

 

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