March 1998

March 3, 1998
On December 7, 1987, David Burke, a fired airline employee, followed his ex-boss onboard a Pacific Southwest Airline jet with his mind set on revenge. He shot the man in mid-flight and caused the plane to crash, killing all forty-three people onboard including himself.

March 4, 1998
The De Haviland Comet was one of the most innovative aircraft ever designed - a modern appearing jet aircraft built in the early 1950's. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the Edsel of the aviation world. Major design flaws caused the aircraft to break up in mid-flight, resulting in numerous fatal crashes that permanently grounded the Comet. The first of these fatal crashes occurred on March 3, 1953 when a Comet failed to takeoff leaving Karachi, Pakistan. It collided with a bridge and caught on fire, killing all 11 passengers and crew.
The really quite rude GROWCOTTSmiler writes: "Don`t let fact get in the way of a good story will you! The aircraft weren`t permanently grounded and the only reason for the structual failures was down to an until then unknown phenomenon refering to a certain type of metal fatigue. The lessons learnt from this aircraft paved the way for comercial aviation today. You claim to be all for free speach, at least make sure it`s accurate and not misleading! By the way, I`m not a spotter, just an aircraft engineer."

March 5, 1998
The Apollo space program, scheduled for its first launch on February 21, 1967, started in tragedy. On Jan. 27, 1967, astronauts Gus Grisson, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were executing a dress rehearsal when fire was smelled in the command module. Caused by a spark due to faulty electrical wiring, the fire burned the inner walls of the capsule, releasing toxic smoke. It took technicians five minutes to open the complex escape hatch, only to find that the astronauts trapped inside had already suffocated.

March 6, 1998
In December, Alan Hall, 48, reported to police in Fairfield, California, that he had been Bobbittized by a woman in revenge for Hall's having killed a friend of hers 14 years ago. (Hall served time for voluntary manslaughter.) Then, two days later, Hall admitted that there was no other woman and that he had done it himself for unstated reasons. (You have to wonder what sort of reason anyone would have to do that sort of thing?)

March 8, 1998
"Tell the police officers that I'm sorry." That's how 19-year-old Moshe Pergament began the suicide note found on the seat of his car after he was shot to death by two police officers. The note went on to say that he wanted to die. The 19-year-old from Manhasset Hills, lured police to pull him over on the LIE by weaving in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed. And when they did, he drew what turned out to be a fake gun and taunted the cops who had no choice but to shoot him. It turned out that Pergament had 6-thousand dollars in gambling debts amassed during the baseball season. The teen, who lived with his parents, was a student at Nassau Community College.

March 10, 1998
Following the battle of Midway, on June 7, 1942, one of the American survivors pulled out of the ocean was Ens. George Gay, the sole survivor of the torpedo bomber, Torpedo 8, which was shot into the sea by Japanese anti-aircraft guns. He survived for another 55 years, dying in 1996. At his death, Gay's ashes were scattered over the grid reference off Midway where his shipmates fell, forever reuniting Torpedo 8's aviators.

March 11, 1998
Something to ponder:
If asked to name the color of death and mourning, Europeans will choose black. Chinese, other Asians, and many other groups will pick white. Black signifies darkness and the absence of light. It also recalls the silence in the middle of the night. White recalls the color of the bones and the paleness of the corpse. The difference is not perfect because Europeans fill their graveyards with white tombstones. White doves also appear as motifs in the European sepulchral arts. Catholics and High-Church Anglicans recognize purple as the color of mourning. Priests wear purple or violet robes at funeral masses for the dead, recalling Christ's passion, crucifixion, and resurrection.

March 14, 1998
A 20-year-old man was killed in Melbourne, Australia, in January when the brick wall of a garage collapsed; the wall had a basketball backboard attached, and the man had held onto the rim after a slam-dunk, bringing the backboard and the wall down on top of him.

March 16, 1998
The Mackay-Bennett was a cable repair ship that served as a funerary vessel for the victims of the Titanic. Two days after the Titanic sank in 1912, the Mackay-Bennett sailed from Halifax, Nova Scotia with a sad cargo: blocks of ice, embalming fluid, and stacks of empty coffins. When crewmen reached the disaster site on April 20, 1912, they were staggered by what they saw: "As far as the eye can see, the ocean was strewn with wreckage and debris, with bodies bobbing up and down in the cold sea," wrote a crew member. Two weeks later, the ship was back, bearing 190 bodies pulled from the North Atlantic. Most went unclaimed and were buried there. Even in death, class barriers were preserved: the bodies of first-class passengers were unloaded in coffins, second and third class in canvas bags, and crewmen on open stretchers.

March 17, 1998
On September 9, 1845, the Irish newspapers first reported the potato blight which was to create the "Great Irish Famine". The nation of Ireland had become dependent on the potato as the main ingredient in their diet. When a fungus destroyed the potato crop, over a million people starved an additional million survivors left the island, many destined for America. Incidentally, there is still no cure for the fungus which caused the blight.

J. writes: "You mentioned the potato blight. I thought you'd like to know that the very same blight that starved so many Irish resurfaced in Western New Tork not too long ago. Also, there is now a treatment for it, but it is hideously expensive. (And sadly, it is widely said that the famine never had to cause so many deaths in the first place. The English could have provided food - but didn't.)"

March 18, 1998
On September 25, 1978 a Cessna 172 collided with a Boeing 727 at 2600 feet as it approached Runway 27 at the San Diego Airport. The collision dealt a fatal blow to both planes, and they crashed into a residential district of San Diego, killing 137 passengers/crew plus 7 San Diego residents. According to data culled from the cockpit voice recorder, only 17 seconds elapsed between the collision with the Cessna and the fatal crash. The final words of the captain a split second before impact were "Mom I love you!".

March 20, 1998
In one of the more ridiculous examples of human ingenuity out of action, the Oregon State Highway Division decided it would be a great idea to dispose of a smelly whale carcass that had washed up on the beach by dynamiting it so that seagulls could scavenge the remaining small chunks of blubber. A large crowd and film crew was on hand to record the event as the whale carcass was detonated in a huge bloody blast. However, cheers of excitement that rained out just after the explosion soon gave way to screams of disgust as the crowd was pelted by whale gore that rained all over the area. Some of the chunks were dangerously large and crushed cars parked nearby. However, although everyone was covered with some blubber, no one was seriously injured in the event. (The Exploding Whale)

March 21, 1998
Sherwood Anderson's short stories made him a literary giant. In later years, he confessed he could only write "when I am slightly under the influence of strong drink." In 1941 - after swallowing a toothpick at a cocktail party - he died of peritonitis on an ocean liner bound for Brazil.

March 22, 1998
In La Hambra, California, mutilated body parts of a missing 12-year-old have been discovered entombed in chunks of fresh concrete that oozed blood. Police arrested seven people Sunday for investigation of murder in the death of sixth-grader Juan Delgado, last seen Tuesday and reported missing Thursday. The seven people lived near the suburban lawn where one of two concrete blocks was apparently dumped on the grass overnight and found Saturday. Capt. John Rees listed off the evidence recovered from a tool shed that ties the seven people to the grisly murder. ``Cement bags. Plastic bags. Cutting instruments. Blood,'' Capt. John Rees said. An autopsy determined the cause of Juan's death was asphyxiation, Rees said. Investigators believed the two recently poured chunks contained about 80 percent of one body. Police were called to a home Saturday by a resident who saw blood oozing from a 200-pound chunk of concrete about the size of a five-gallon paint can. ``There was blood oozing out of the bottom of the block onto the curb and flies orbiting about,'' Rees said. ``If you looked really close you see some tissue, but you couldn't see what the tissue was.'' A second concrete block containing body parts was discovered later Saturday less than a half-mile away, near another home in this suburb 20 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

March 24, 1998
John Jacob Astor was the wealthiest of the Titanic's privileged class. He was travelling with his pregnant young wife, 18-year-old Madeleine, when seabound disaster struck. Astor attempted to secure a seat in the lifeboat occupied by his wife but he was turned away. He accepted his fate like a gentleman and his badly crushed, frozen body was recovered from the Atlantic on April 22, 1912. It is believed that a falling smokestack may have struck him.

March 25, 1998
When King Pedro of Castile was a young prince, he fell in love with Ines de Castro. His father, fearing political complications trumped up by a charge against Ines and had her beheaded. Pedro waited until he had become king after his father died, then had the hearts torn out of the assassins and ordered Ines's body exhumed. Her corpse was dressed, placed on the throne, and officially crowned queen. All the dignitaries were forced to pay homage by kissing her hand and treating her like a living monarch. Pedro died in 1369.

March 27, 1998
An agency of the International Chamber of Commerce in London reported in January that a total of 51 people on ships were killed in 1997 in attacks by pirates. The prime areas of concern were near Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and Brazil.

March 28, 1998
A man died in February, 1998 shooting himself in the head while trying to prove to his wife that a pistol was "unloaded" police said. Angela Lalli told police that she and her husband were taking the 9mm pistol and several other items to sell at a flea market in neighboring Ft. Smith, Arkansas. She asked if the gun, which was on the pickup truck's dashboard, was unloaded, and he told her it was, police said. Lalli released the magazine to show her the empty chamber. However, police said that when Lalli pushed the loaded magazine back into place, a bullet went into the chamber. "Just joking, he put it to his head and pulled the trigger" the police spokesman said. "The vehicle went into the center median...then went back onto the pavement, flipped two or three times and landed upright". Lalli died later at an area hospital. His wife was treated and released, authorities said. Police are considering the shooting as an accident.

March 30, 1998
The cry of "Witch!" began innocently enough when a West Indian servant named Tituba began teaching the native occult arts of palmistry, fortune-telling, and a black magic to excitable young girls in Salem, Mass. The group of about 10 girls, ranging in age from 9 to 20, became so adept at the rituals that they were pronounced "bewitched" and pressured to name those responsible. "For sport," the girls accused certain men and women of bewitching them. Their word was rarely qustioned. If the accused had an alibi, the girls swore that the accused's "specter" had afflicted them. Almost 150 "witches" were arrested, but only 31 were tried in 1692. All 31 (6 of them men) were sentenced to death. Nineteen were hanged, 2 died in jail, and 1 man was slowly pressed to death under heavy stones. None were burned. By May 1693, all such trials had ceased , and the untried witches were released.

March 31, 1998
On the night of December 7, 1993 Colin Ferguson, a paranoid schizophrenic who had an intense hatred for many things but especially the white race, took revenge for imagined grievances by pulling out a gun in a New York commuter train and walking calmly from person to person, shooting them in the head. A panic broke out among the passengers as they struggled to get away from the madman. Eventually, three men wrestled him to the floor and ended the massacre. Six people were dead and 19 more were injured. Incredibly, the obviously mentally ill Ferguson insisted upon acted as his own attorney, thus dooming his trial. His psychotic ravings and illogical arguments resulted in a sentencing of over 300 years in prison.