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Will Rogers, Wiley Post killed attempting takeoff from Alaskan village

By
FRANK DAUGHERTY, United Press Correspondent

POINT BARROW, Alaska, Aug. 16, 1935 (UP) - Will Rogers, the cowboy humorist, and Wiley Post, 'round-the-world flier, were killed at 8:18 P.M. Thursday (2:18 A.M. Friday, New York time) when Post's new plane crashed on the frozen tundra fifteen miles south of here.

The crash occurred as the two were taking off from a native village where they had stopped when forced down by engine trouble and a dense fog that shrouded this northernmost civilized post of Alaska.

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During their three hour stay at the village they had dinner with the Eskimos and Post repaired the missing motor.

The motors failed again, the natives said, just as the plane took off from the river where it had landed. The ship crashed to the tundra at the edge of the stream and broke up in the frozen moss hummocks.

The craft's right wing was broken and its engine was driven back into the cabin. The plane ground - looped over on its back.

Post's body was crushed by the motor. Rogers was thrown out of the plane. Both apparently died instantly.

The country surrounding the scene is almost as low as the river. The moss hummocks, partly frozen, protude from water. The plane crushed the hummocks when it crashed and rescuers worked in about two feet of water to extricate the bodies. Post's body was completely submerged as he lay crushed and still beneath the tangle of the wreckage of the motor controls.

Post's watch on his wrist stopped at 8:18 P.M., fixing the time of the wreck. Roger's watch was running when Sergeant Stanley Morgan, of the United States Signal Corps, and I reached the wreckage.

We had been notified by a native runner who came running terrified into Point Barrow with news of the tragedy.

We reached the scene in a motor-whale boat manned by natives. Rogers' body was found lying outside the plane. It was badly battered. It was necessary to pull the wreck to pieces to extricate Post's body. Gasoline had spewed on the water and caught fire, flaming briskly for a few moments.

The plane was demolished.

The bodies were placed in the whale boat and brought here, where they were taken to the Presbyterian Mission hospital by Dr. Henry Griest, its superintendent. They will be held here until the Coast Guard cutter Northland returns to take them to Nome. The Northland left Point Barrow only yesterday after its annual summer visit when it brings a doctor, dentist, Unites States Commissioner and supplies for the government employees here.

Post, round-the-world record holder, and Rogers, the humorist, movie actor and famous air traveler, were on a leisurely trip around Alaska.

Originally intending to visit Point Barrow several days ago, instead they flew from Aklavik, N.W.T., to Fairbanks and spent the interval visiting central Alaskan points. They took off yesterday from Fairbanks, and their arrival had been awaited at his farthest north outpost of civilization with keen anticipation by the few white persons here.

While natives and whites struggled to beach the boat carrying the bodies here, an ink-stained piece of paper fell from Rogers' pocket into the sea.

Unfolded, the soggy paper was discovered to be a rotogravure picture of Rogers' daughter, Mary, vacationing in Maine.

One of the natives fell beneath the rollers which were used to beach the heavy whaling boat. He was badly crushed.

Stray bits of wreckage caught in the current of the river on the bank of which the plane landed and floated down into the Arctic Ocean.

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