Storms Cause Tragedy for Travelers (1933)

Train and plane wreck on same day near Tucumcari

Torrential rain storms and low visibility led to a day of disaster for travelers through Quay County, New Mexico. On the morning of August 29, 1933, the weather conditions were blamed for not only a major train derailment, but also an airplane wreck claiming the lives of 13 people.

Golden State Limited Crashes in Arroyo

The Chicago Rock Island & Pacific and Southern Pacific’s Golden State Limited provided passenger service from Chicago to Los Angeles. On Monday, August 28, 1933, the Golden State Limited #4 train left the El Paso Station at 7:30 pm headed for Tucumcari. Strong storms were raging across the state and at flood waters turned normally dry arroyos into raging rapids. Five miles outside of Tucumcari the Pajarito Creek was no exception.

Engineer C.J. Crost was piloting the train carefully making his way down the tracks heading toward Tucumcari. As they approached the Pajarito, the train stopped just a mile from the creek to inspect the track for damage. The swirling waters had washed away the eastern side of the bridge, but the damage was not visible from the west. The decision was made to move cautiously forward at low speed. Just after 4:00 am, while crossing the creek, the trestle collapsed plunging the engine and six cars into the creek bottom without warning. Only five cars remained on the tracks.

The conductor Arthur W. Depew was uninjured in the accident, and fought against the storm and dark making his way to Tucumcari to summon assistance. He made it to the railroad headquarters just after 5:00 am reporting the incident and although he was exhausted, returned to the scene with rescue crews assisting in the efforts. Initially five bodies were recovered, with only the engineer being identified. Over 40 people were injured in the event. The local hospital was immediately overwhelmed with critical patients and make shift clinics were set up in hotels and private homes for less serious injuries.

Special trains were sent from Dalhart and El Paso to assist with removing the wreckage and to transport uninjured passengers on east. Several of the passengers decided they had enough train riding and caught buses to their destinations. When all was said and done, eight people ended up losing their lives to the incident. Investigations into the incident determined that the extraordinary storm event was responsible for the accident.

Airline Wrecks at Quay

On the same day as the Golden State Limited wrecked, a Transcontinental and Western Airline night mail and passenger flight from Amarillo flew off course crashing into a mesa south of Tucumcari killing all three passengers and both pilots. The passengers Mr. and Mrs. Gore from Albuquerque were heading home with their granddaughter from Amarillo.

The pilots last reported their location as six miles east of Tucumcari near the airport, but were not heard from after that. The plane was found wrecked into the side of a mesa near Quay and was reported by the local postmaster.

(For more on the Golden State Limited accident be sure to check out my upcoming book)

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