Information On Another Sabena  Passenger

by R.G. Pelley

I recently acquired a photo of an American woman, H Ruth Henderson, who was a passenger on the Sabena flight which crashed near Gander.

This wirephoto is from The Baltimore Sun's historical photo archive. A wirephoto is different from traditional photographic prints.  It is the result of what used to be breakthrough technology (now completely obsolete) that allowed a photographic image to be scanned, transmitted over "the wire" and then printed at the receiving location.  They are often on thinner, slick paper (very similar to old thermal roll fax paper) and often fade or become sepia toned more quickly than traditional silver halide prints.  Long removed from commercial use, these artifacts represent an important era in the history of news media


The back of the wirephoto has the following text :

BS oc NYl6 Sept 18 ON OVERDUE PLANE H.Ruth Henderson above, executive secretary of the International Division of Girl Scouts is among persons aboard a trans Atlantic plane of Sabbena the Belgian airline which today was long overdue at Gander Newfoundland on flight from Brussels to New York Sabbena officials said AP."  

Henderson back

This gave me a good excuse to see what a few other newspapers may have had to say about this person and the crash. I must say that web search using just her name gives very few articles. Please note that for reasons of historical integrity, there has been no attempt to modify the text in these articles, in order to show them exactly as they appeared in the various archives. This may make them a bit more difficult to read in detail but the gist of article is still easy to follow. Here is what I found by date.

The Post-Standard, Syracuse NY of Thursday 19 September gives the following report on page 2.

“H, Ruth Henderson, executive secretary of the Girl Scouts, who hos been Httending a meeting in France. AMERICANS ON PLANE BRUSSELS. (#-- The list of passengers aboard the missing Belgian trans-Atlantic airliner included these Americans: Revil Rudi, 30, 318 E. 66th st., New York city. Willinm M. Wilson, 55, Short Hills, N. J. Mary M. Wilson, 54, same address. Joseph Alster, 35, 175 W. 93d st,, New York. Helen Henderson, 47 ( 172 Mitchell pi.,. New York. Nathan Lindenbaum, 44, 465 West End ave., New York. “


The Bluefield, West Virginia, Daily Telegraph Newspaper Archive: September 19, 1946, page 1,  gives a more detailed description :

“the Belgian airliner "remained "unknown, The plane, piloted by Capt. Jean Ester, RAF and Belgian air-force pilot, was last heard from at 3:37 a. m., as it was approaching Gander. At that time it reported its fuel supply sufficient to last until 10:57 (EDT). The coast guard said it received a message from the north Atlantic patrol stating an outbound C-54 passenger plane, not otherwise identified, reported seeing wreckage northeast of Gander. A coast guard amphibian plane searched the seas this afternoon and half a dozen others were ready to take off when weather permitted. Visibility at Gander reportedly was 500 feet. The Gander airport is surrounded by heavy forests. 44 Persons Aboard The plane carried 37 passengers and. a crew of seven, including two hostesses. In London the British Press association said most of the passengers were American and Belgian businessmen. The airline said it was doubtful if the passenger list would t>e released until the fate of the plane was established. Fernand Martens. New York agent for the airline, said the plane was due at Gander at 3 a. m., (edt) and La Guardia field here at 11 a. m. Martens said there was a possibility it may have landed at Goose bay, Labrador, an alternate trans-Atlantic route. Efforts to communicate with Goose Bay had not been successful by late- afternoon. Capt. Budlong Merrill said when he arrived here this morning with his TWA Paris-New York plane that his takeoff from Gander was delayed 40 minutes because the Belgian plane was making contact with the Gander tower. When the Belgian plane did not land. Capt. Merrill said, his flight was released and he saw no brace of the plane. A KLM (Dutch> plane from Amsterdam arrived here today and reported that weather forced it to by-pass Gander, Sabbena officials said passengers aboard the unreported plane included H. Ruth Henderson, executive secretary of the Girl Scouts, who has been attending a meeting in France. Miss Henderson formerly was superintendent of elementary education in the _ Richmond, Va.. schools and also worked in the personnel department of the atomic bomb plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.”


The next day, 20 September, the Evening Recorder of Amsterdam, NY printed the following article:


The Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archive: September 21, 1946  gave the following information on page 1

“26 Are Dead 18 Survivors On Way Out GANDER. AIRPORT, and workmen began assem- ept. densely en- anglerJIorest and swampland r norm eastern Newfoundland aturday cloaked the complete tory of the crash of a Trans- atlantic Belgian airliner which ook the lives of 26 of the 44 ersons aboard- The telling of the tragic story- waited arrival of the 18 miracu- ous survivors of the crash being vacuated to Banting Memorial hos- ital here by rescue parties which ad made their way to the scene j f the wreckage in the midst of solated woodland and bog, 22 .iles southwest of Gander. All of the survivors, including 0 men and eight women, were Belgians except three, a Chinese oy and two Americans, Miss Helen Ruth Henderson. 47, an executive f the Girl Scouts of America, New fork city, and Rudy Revil, 30, a omposer, New York city. However, ix other survivors listed New York ity addresses. The two stewardesses were the nly menroers of the crew of six o survive. 14 Stretcher Cases Of the IS survivors, it was report- d that' 14 were stretcher cases, adly injured. A call for helicopters o be in transporting the more eriously injured to hospital was inswered Saturday when two dis- mantled craft arrived by air trans- bling them. Two rescue parties had already come upon the charred wreckage! of the huge aircraft which plunged into the side of a hill Tuesday morning after flying over this air- field on a landing approach in low hanging overcast.

MISS H. RUTH HENDERSON of New York City, executive secretary of the international division of Girl Scouts, who is one of the 18 persons who survived the crash of the Belgian airliner at Newfound- land.”

It is very interesting to see that even without Facebook, Twitter and all these other modern “conveniences”, information still got transmitted with a high degree of speed and accuracy.  And yes, the last newspaper report was correct – Ms Henderson did indeed make it through.

Researched by R G Pelley


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