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US Sen. John Heinz, 6 Others, Killed In Air Crash 20 Years Ago Today

LOWER MERION, Pa. (CBS) – Today marks the 20th anniversary of a deadly plane crash in the skies over Lower Merion that claimed the life of US senator John Heinz and six other people.

“We saw a big, black explosion in the sky about, I would say, a hundred yards to the right of our house,” said Sue Jones, just one of the eyewitnesses who saw the small plane collide with a helicopter over Merion Elementary School on that sunny Thursday afternoon in 1991.

heinz US Sen. John Heinz, 6 Others, Killed In Air Crash 20 Years Ago TodayThe plane was carrying US Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa., right), who was scheduled to meet with constituents.

All three people on the plane, plus two on the chopper and two children in the schoolyard, were killed.  KYW Newsradio’s Tony Hanson was one of the first reporters on the scene.

(Hanson on KYW in 1991:)   “The plane was experiencing some difficulty with its landing gear.  A helicopter was sent up to take a look at the craft, apparently the two aircraft crashed almost directly over this elementary school (and) came crashing, burning, to the ground.”

Five others, including three children, were hurt. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that errors in judgment by both pilots caused the crash.

Reported by Brad Segall, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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  • Mark

    On 24 Oct 1987, I flew from Philadelphia to London on a British Airways 747. When I checked in for the flight, I remarked to my wife about all the news cameras in the airport, and wondered what the fuss was all about. As we taxied to the runway, the pilot announced to the passengers that he was honored to have on board Sr. John Heinz. I’m a bit of a white-knuckled flyer, and remarked to the passenger beside me that I was glad to have Heinz aboard, as surely nothing would happen to us. We arrived early the next morning in Heathrow, and as we taxied to the terminal, the pilot informed us that we had just landed in 0% visibility fog – further convincing me of Heinz’s magic charms. You can well imagine my astonishment three and half years later when I heard the news of Heinz’s untimely death in the crash!


  • Mary Groce

    This crash is still resounding throughout the Lower Merion community. It happened before Columbine, before we understood the long-lasting effects of trauma on our children and ourselves; but by now many of us have learned–the hard way–just what devastaton PTSD can wreak on a child, on a family, and on our whole community. Seven people were killed, one was severely burned; and, in addition, not one of us has escaped unscathed.

  • US Sen. John Heinz, 6 Others, Killed In Air Crash 20 Years Ago Today | US Senator

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