Memorial sought to mark site of 1958 Las Vegas air crash
LAS VEGAS ” Fifty years after the worst air disaster in Las Vegas history, family and friends of victims are pushing for a permanent memorial at the crash site.
A midair collision on April 21, 1958 between a United Air Lines aircraft and a fighter jet from Nellis Air Force Base killed all 47 people aboard the airliner and both men in the military jet.
The fuselage of the United DC-7 slammed into what was then a patch of desert several miles from the nearest paved road. Now, it’s an empty lot soon to be swallowed by development on Cactus Avenue near Decatur Boulevard. The Super Sabre crashed five miles south.
Shirley Suson, 82, of Denver, said she thinks the victims deserve to be remembered. Her parents, Dave and Edith Lipson, were in their late 50s when they took ill-fated United Flight 736.
“I think about them all the time,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“My mother was afraid to fly. I would say, ‘Oh, Mom, it’s like sitting in your living room.’ You don’t think that plays over and over and over in my head?” added Suson, then a United employee in Washington, D.C.
Local aviation historian Doug Scroggins has been pushing for some type of memorial at the site for the last decade.
“There needs to be something erected out there. Something needs to be done,” Scroggins said.
Since pinpointing where the United plane crashed, he has visited the area dozens of times in search of remnants. Among other items, he has found several pairs of novelty pilot wings that flight crews would hand out to children and fragments of dishware stamped “UAL.”
The Civil Aeronautics Board, precursor to today’s Federal Aviation Administration, blamed the crash on the high rate of speed at which the aircraft came together ” too fast for the pilots to react in time.
Investigators also cited a failure of Air Force flight rules to account for “the human and cockpit limitations” of trying to see and avoid other aircraft while traveling at near-supersonic speeds.
United 736 was en route to New York with scheduled stops in Denver, Kansas City, Mo., and Washington, D.C.
Faith Paris, 79, of Denver, lost her husband, then-32-year-old Steve Paris, in the crash. She has made four visits to the crash site since Scroggins first took her there in 1997.
“I never knew where he died,” she told the Review-Journal. “I needed to see that.”
She has since been talking to elected officials in an effort to get a memorial built for United 736 victims.