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The Mt. Success plane crash of 1954


by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
November 19, 2020
BERLIN — Coming up next week will be the 66th Anniversary of the Northeast Airlines flight 792 crash that took place in Berlin. It's a story only avid hikers, locals or history buffs know about, or a combination of all three. On Nov. 30, 1954, Northeast Airlines flight 792 met its fate after snow squalls affected the pilot's visibility.

Interest in this story brought this writer to the crash site for a firsthand look. A climb up to the top of Mt. Success in Berlin, then down a bit on to the Appalachian Trail will bring you to the site. Not every hiker that has attempted to find the plane's remains has been successful. The directions are a bit fuzzy, 'bear right at the big boulder, then down into the brush a bit' is about all this writer had to go on.

Following gut instinct and some whistles from college students who had found it first that day, made it possible. After getting scraped by brush and sliding down a few rocks the shell of what was once a fully functioning plane appeared. Pieces of the plane, including engine parts can be seen scattered several feet away from the plane's cabin. Standing amongst the wreckage was an eerie feeling, however it was easy to think at that same spot 66 years ago, people did what they could to survive.

The flight had departed from Boston, and made stops in Concord and Laconia, and was bound for Berlin. Back then, there were many flights that brought people north on small twin engine planes. The pilot, 37 year old Peter Carey, with no visibility, relied on his instruments, however was unsuccessful and crashed into Mount Success roughly 200 feet below the summit. The cockpit separated from the main cabin.

There were seven people on board, including four crew members. On the flight was, 37 year old, First Officer George McCormick of Mass, 23 year old stewardess Mary McEttrick of Mass, and 39 year old Flight Superintendent John C. McNulty, also of Mass. Passengers included William Miller of Pennsylvania, James Harvey of Mass and Daniel Hall of New Jersey.

According to reports the flight was scheduled to land at 11:12 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., the airline announced that the plane was assumed to have crashed somewhere in the White Mountains. Then Governor Hugh Gregg held a meeting in Pinkham Notch to include reporters and rescue crews. Helicopters and other planes provided an aerial search of the area near the Berlin Airport. Reports say the search shifted to the Berlin area from Conway after a newly released radio signal, was confirmed to have said 'Down five miles from Berlin, on a hill'. Those search planes discovered the survivors from above, and eventually brought them to safety via helicopter. Volunteers to include several locals scoured the area. After almost two days of searching, only five were found alive.

Carey navigated the plane in such a way that it landed flat, instead of head on into the mountain, initially saving all seven passengers. In the time the plane was located, two people had succumbed to their injuries. Adverse weather conditions made the rescue effort difficult. Carey survived the crash, however two people who were in the cockpit did not make it.

According to reports, the pilot repelled the plane's wheels and tilted the nose of the plane up. An old article in the Berlin Reporter relayed that this maneuver likely saved lives.

The night of the crash, temperatures dropped below zero. In order to stay warm, the passengers used every article of clothing on board and huddled together. Snow was melted for drinking water.

The Reporter noted that it was Mary, 'Merry Mack' that was seen waving a flag by search crews flying overhead. She was also credited for tending to injured parties. Of McEttrick, fellow passenger Miller said, "She was terrific. She was the life of the party. She held us all together."

McEttrick, who would later marry and become Mary Yung, continued to work as an airline stewardess despite the deadly crash. She passed away just five years ago, in 2015.

Memories came flooding in after her passing.

One such note read, "My mother and Mary Jung where roommates together in Jackson Heights Queens New York in the 1950's while working as stewardesses for Northeast Airlines during the glory days of aviation."

Another reads, "I was a neighbor on Oakridge St and the paper boy at the time Mary lived there. I remember the December 1954 Northeast Airlines crash and the heroism of Mary in that incident."

In 1954, on Dec. 3, just days after the accident, the Associated Press listed the passengers along with personal information.

Capt. W. Peter Carey, 37, pilot of the craft, a resident of Swampscott, Mass., he is married and has five daughters. He entered Northeast's employ in 1942, leaving to ferry planes during World War II.

A native of Chicago, he was a graduate of Belmont Hill school, Phillips Academy at Andover, Mass., and Yale university and also studied at Harvard. He recently became a partner in a Boston firm which manufactures medical instruments.

Co-Pilot George D. McCormick, 37, married and resident of Kingston, N. Y. He entered service with Northeast in 1950.

MARY L. McETTRICK, of Boston's Dorchester district, the plane's hostess, an accomplished classical and modern pianist, who graduated from Emmanuel college in 1953 and was historian of her class.

JOHN McNULTY, 39, a flight superintendent who was making a routine flight check, entered Northeast employment 12 years ago after a short career as a disc jockey at radio station WJDA, Quincy. He has made his home in the Mattapan district of Boston with his wife and three children.

JAMES W. HARVEY, 52, of Watertown, Mass., a frequent air traveler, was making his first flight to Berling, N. H., on business. He founded his own importing firm in Cambridge three years ago after 24 years in that business. His son, Lt. James, Jr., arrived home Tuesday night after release from active duty with the U. S. Marine Corps. He has two other sons, David, 23, employed by a Boston (National Shawmut) bank, Peter, 18, a Tufts college freshman, and a daughter, Mrs. Robert Bruns, 22, of Manchester, N. H.

HARVEY and his wife, ETHEL, moved to Watertown three years ago after living in Belmont, Mass., 25 years.

DONALD H. HALL, a Montclair, N.J. businessman, was en route to Berlin on a business trip.

W. MILLER, 80 East Johnson street, Philadelphia.

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