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Plane crash in Harriman State Park near swamp

A swamp — site of a plane crash in Harriman State Park in 1974 — near St. John’s Church. ©

A plane crash in San Francisco this week was similar to a plane crash in Harriman State Park forest forty years ago.  I couldn’t find much information about Northwest Airlines Flight 6231 online, until I found the AAR75-13.  Then I decided to go find the plane for myself.

Flight 6231

It was a large plane, a Boeing 727, that left New York’s JFK one an icy night in the 1974 winter.  It carried three crew, including the pilot.

They were en route to Buffalo, New York, a chartered flight sent to pick up the NFL’s Baltimore Colts.  Four minutes after take-off, at 7:24 pm, the pilot issued a Mayday and the plane disappeared from all New York radars.

I found the old AAR75-13 accident report from the NTSB online, and from it found the exact coordinates of the crash: 41 degrees 12′, 53″ N Lat,  74 degrees 5′ 40″ W Long.

These co ordinates are wrong.

Yesterday, I found it by looking at a historic aerial photo from 1975, and then going to the place.  I biked in on the Turnpike, then walked to coordinates  N 41° 12.903 W 074° 05.335

New York Times article from 1974 reporting death of three in plane crash, Harriman State Park NY
Article from New York Times, 1974.

The plane’s remains are located in a sunny, ferny glen between the Long Path and the Old Turnpike, south of Lake Welch.

You can see lots of debris there.  It’s scattered under the ferns, lots of it.  Dusky aqua-green metal, old rivets, twisted stuff that’s unidentifiable to those of us who don’t know much about airplanes.

Part of an airplane that crashed in Harriman State Park 40 years ago.
Remains of Northwest Airlines plane crash in Harriman State Park 40 years ago.

I found a piece, picked it up, and decided I didn’t want to be there anymore, and headed back up to the Old Turnpike.  The piece of the airplane I found first was shaped like a little cross.  Walking up to the path, I thought, it’s a shame there isn’t a memorial there, in the woods.  I left the cross at the edge of the trail, propped up on a rock.




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