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Local News

May 22, 2012

The untold story of Continental Flight 11

CENTERVILLE — Forward and italics by Duane Crawford

Since 2008, I have been searching for the coroner or the FBI reports to find the accurate names and other information about the Continental Airlines Boeing 707 Flight 11 that crashed near Unionville on May 22, 1962, killing all 45 crew members and passengers. Despite letters to Continental Airlines and other inquiries, I was unsuccessful. Recently, I found even more than I was looking for in the Putnam County Historical Society and Museum.

Mr. Charles B. DePuy, a reporter for the Daily Iowegian, wrote the “untold story” on June 22, 1962, because Centerville and surrounding areas played a huge role in helping with the tragedy. The rest of this article is credited to his research and writing, and I am deeply grateful for his contribution, as we will have a 50th Anniversary Remembrance Service at 11 a.m. on May 26, 2012 on the northeast corner of the Unionville square.    

            *                *                *

It would seem impossible, considering the reams that have been written, but there is still a story about the crash of Flight 11 that hasn’t been written.

It’s a sad story, but one that can be written with pride, for everyone who had a part in it far beyond the normal and in the best tradition of the Golden Rule.

It was the heart of the tragedy, the broken heart, the business of identifying and caring for the dead.

Identity had to be final and complete. If a crime was involved, it had to be final and complete for that reason, and tragic fake hope had to be allayed if any existed.

We talked to L. J. Johnson, of the Johnson Funeral Home in Centerville and with Dr. Charles L. Judd of Unionville, Mo.

Ambulances and funeral home officials were asked to stand by together with physicians of the area on the night of the crash. That started about 10 p.m. Tuesday night, May 22, 1962.

From that time and until the last body was returned to relatives and friends at the point of origin, a monumental task was completed with reverence and respect to the dead, and their grieving families.

Key man in the task of caring for the dead outside the FBI was Dr. Judd, head of the Monroe Hospital in Unionville, Mo., who is also coroner of Putnam County. He has received two letters since. They are as follows:

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