On December 16, 1960 a United Airlines DC-8 and a TWA Super Constellation collided in midair above New York City. The TWA plane crashed on the coast of Staten Island, killing all 44 passengers and crew. The United airliner veered to the East, crashing into the densely populated neighborhood of Park Slope, right at the intersection of 7th Avenue and Sterling Place.
The plane left a large trench running down Sterling Place and set fire to ten homes, the Pillar of Fire Church, the McCaddin Funeral Home, a laundromat, and a deli. Six people on the ground were killed, as well as 83 of the 84 passengers and crew. The lone survivor, Stephen Lambert Baltz, was an 11-year old boy from Illinois on his way to visit family in Yonkers. Stephen was taken to Methodist Hospital where he died of pneumonia the following day. With a total of 134 people killed, it was the deadliest air disaster in the world at the time. Sir Edmund Hillary, famous for being the first to reach the top of Mount Everest was supposed to be a passenger, but arrived at the airport late, missing the doomed flight.
If you look closely there is still evidence of the crash on Sterling Place and 7th Avenue. The building that stands at 123 Sterling Place was badly damaged by the plane’s wing and the repairs can still be seen. The first twelve rows of brick that top the building are a lighter color and the building’s tin cornice was never replaced. At 20 7th Avenue a damaged window was bricked over rather than replaced.
A small memorial exists in the chapel of Methodist Hospital to Stephen Lambert Baltz and the other crash victims. The plaque includes the change Stephen had in his pocket the day of the crash and reads: “Stephen Baltz Memorial, Remembering 135 Victims of The Aircraft Disaster, Brooklyn, NY December 16, 1960. Our Tribute to a Brave Little Boy.”
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