Driving into work this morning, I heard on the news that today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the worst airline disasters in history: the mid-air collision of two planes over Staten Island.
Of the 128 passengers and crew members aboard the two flights, all were killed save for a 10 year old boy named Stephen Baltz, who had been traveling alone to join his family for the holidays in Yonkers.
Stephen miraculously survived the fall of over 5,000 feet, but was badly injured. Brooklyn residents rushed to his aid, rolling him in nearby snowbanks to extinguish his flaming clothing. He was brought to the nearby NY Methodist hospital, where he died the following day. You can find a memorial in the hospital chapel, which includes 65 cents in coins – the pocket change Stephen Baltz was carrying that day.
I wrote a detailed post about the incident last summer, which has become one of the most popular on my site. The comments are especially touching, and I’ve posted a sampling below. It’s clear that anyone who was alive in New York that day will never forget the incident.
I got to the scene several hours after the crash had occurred. I’ll never forget the sight of the tail section with the word “United” lying in the street, or the child’s doll in the wreckage, or the temporary morgue with bodybags setup at the City Service garage, the smell of formaldehyde permeating the air inside. It was a surreal mess.
I will never forget the photo of Stephen published that week in Life Magazine, as he looked into the camera. Think it was, at the age of ten myself, my first recognition of our frailty. I felt his breathless shock and pain in an overwhelming emotional way. Upon seeing this post the same emotion wells up once more. Years later friends moved to Sterling Place to raise their family and restore a brownstone, I never realized this scene had occurred right there. Soul survivor. R.I.P.
One of my earliest memories. I was 4 and we lived at 219 7th Ave. I just remember my mother crying, and I’ve always remembered Stephen; having the same name when you’re a little boy adds to the pathos.
I was eleven years old, the same age as Steven and all my classmates were praying for him. It seemed impossible that he died and the picture of this little boy, found in the snow, will forever be in my memory.
i was 8 years old that day, home from school, sick, with my grandmother watching soap operas. a news bulletin broke in and told us about the plane crash and the only person alive. i remember praying for steven and hoping he would make it. the daily news had an article about the crash this past sunday (12/12) and i saw this story.
I vividly remember the plane crash and going to see the wreckage site a few days later. We lived in Clinton Hill about 1/2 mile away. Over then years I’ve read numerous articles, in print, and on the web about the crash and the sad ending for the one crash survivor.
This event stayed with me all my life. I was 7 and heard the plane crash story on WINS 1010 (which played rock and roll at the time so it was a jolt). The estimated deaths were announced as over a hundred. I went to tell my mother what I heard and she said to stop exaggerating and go find something to do. We kids in Queens looked up at every plane after that wondering which one would drop next. I guess the closeness in age to the boy that survived and closeness in distance to all that death had a lifelong impact. He certainly wasn’t forgotten.
I remember this crash very well. I was a freshman at St. Joseph’s HS, and when the crash happened there were classmates who had lived there and lost everything. I grew up on 2l Street between 6th & 7th Ave. That day everybody had a story of seeing the plane. My brother was in his school and saw the low flying plane. It just missed the steeple of our church. The whole surrounding community came out to help. When I went to work at Methodist Hospital as a nurse, I used to frequent that chapel. The plaque dedicated to that little boy was never forgotten by the hospital staff. This blog brings back many memories, especially how a community came out to help one another.
I was 10 years old, and home from school sick, just outside of New York City on that day in 1960. I watched the TV in horror as the story dominated the local airwaves that day. The tragedy was overwhelming. I watched it all day with great hope that the boy would somehow survive. I had nightmares for awhile afterwards. I haven’t thought of this for many years, but your story brought it back, and showed me a little of myself in 1960. Thank you.
My parents remember it well,because my Aunt lived right down the block. They all visited the wreckage for two days. My Aunt moved to Red Hook soon after and i believe she has photos taken of the event that are still in my family.
I lived two blocks away on 5th avenue and was 8 years old when this happened. My father took me to see the wreckage. I’ll never forget it. My school PS 133 was two blocks away and St, Augustine’s school was on Sterling Pl. and 6th avenue, a very close call.