Le Mars Globe-Post; August 9, 1937
CHARGE PILOT EXCEEDED HIS LICENSE IN CRAIG FLIGHTS
REGULAR PILOT WAS DELAYED
Fred Dommer and Clarence Baack Die In Fall
A gay harvest festival at Craig was tinged with tragedy Friday evening,
when, about 5:30, an airplane plunged into a corn field a half mile north
and a half mile west of Craig, killing one of its passengers outright, and
fatally injuring another.
Fred Dommer, 23, was dead when picked up. Clarence Baack, 24, his friend,
died a few hours later in the Community hospital in Hawarden. George
Conroy, the pilot, was injured, but managed to stagger away and was taken to
Ireton, with Baack, and later to Hawarden, for medical treatment. He was
released from the hospital a short time later.
A Vallet Cleaners truck, driven by Chuck Wiley, was the impromptu ambulance
in which young Baack was rushed to the hospital. Wiley had just passed the
flying field when he saw the crash. He turned around and headed in. The
panel body of the truck made a fairly good ambulance.
MANY BONES BROKEN
According to Dr. R. Fisch of Le Mars, who examined the body before it was
moved, Dommer probably died instantly of a broken neck. A cursory
examination showed crushed legs, a broken arm, broken ribs, and cuts about
the head and face.
Both Baack and Dommer were riding in the front cockpit of the plane, which
is the usual place for passengers, with the pilot alone in the rear cockpit.
The passengers therefore, took the first impact as the plane hit the ground,
going west, and ground-looped, so that it came to rest facing east.
The impact of the plane, with landed right side up on its nose, [two words
are unreadable]. One of the accompanying pictures shows how the front of
the plane, normally resembling the hood of an automobile, was completely
flattened out. The propeller was smashed to pieces, and the engine was
pushed back into the passenger compartment, and up through the top of the
plane. The wings were broken and the fuselage itself was cracked.
Gasoline sprayed the occupants and the motor. The pilot, however, had
presence of mind enough to shut off his motor ignition, thus saving himself
and his passengers from being burned to death.
The first person to reach the plane was Fred Vernon, 17, of Sioux City, son
of Dr. and Mrs. F.G. Vernon, formerly of Merrill. Immediately after him
came Otto Popken and George Ohlen. The plane could not be seen through the
tall corn, but a light haze of dust guided the searchers.
PILOT WAS OUT
Pilot Conroy had succeeded in getting out of the wreck, and was staring at
it dazedly. Baack and Dommer were huddled in the wrecked cockpit, unmoving.
It was necessary to bend back part of the wrecked cowling in order to get
the bodies free. It was at once apparent that Dommer was dead. His body
was laid on the ground and covered with cloth. Baack was breathing. He and
Conroy were rushed to Ireton, but a doctor could not be found there, so they
were taken on to Hawarden. Conroy was later released, but Baack died a few
Calls were sent to Coroner S. H. Luken for an ambulance, and for Drs. R. J.
Fisch and G. A. Mauer. Dr. Fisch, after an examination, said that Dommer
had died instantly, probably of a broken neck. The body was moved to Le
Mars. Later, the body of the other victim was also brought here.
Due to the inaccessible location of the wreck, it was necessary to cut fence
wires in order to get cars through. Considerable corn was damaged.
Coroner S. H. Luken remained with the wreck, after moving the body to the
ambulance, until two volunteer deputy sheriffs came to guard the plane. He
notified Lester S. Orcutt, Fargo, N.D., department of commerce aeronautics
inspector, to come and take charge. Orcutt arrived the next day. Sheriff
Frank Scholer was out on another case at the time of the accident and could
not be reached immediately, but came later to take charge. There was
considerable difficulty with souvenir hunters, who almost pulled the plane
apart, according to Daryl A. Brower, of Sioux City, a transport pilot, who
was the regular pilot of the plane.
HAD BEEN THRESHING
Baack and Dommer had not been at the Craig celebration long. They were
still dressed in their working clothes, as they had just come off a
threshing job. They spent some time in Craig, and then came out to the
stubble field for a ride. They had intended to go back to work later.
According to one report, they had determined to get a cool airplane ride
while working in the heat of a threshing job. Dommer was reported to have
remarked, "I'm going up there and cool off before the day is over."
PILOT NOT LICENSED
Daryl A. Brower, of Sioux City, a licensed transport pilot was in Le Mars
Saturday and obtained some of the pictures taken by a Globe-Post
photographer right after the wreck. He said these were the only pictures
taken which showed the wrecks just as they were before the crowds started
"messing them up."
Brower pointed to details in the pictures which he said would be important
at the aeronautical inquiry on the wreck. He pointed to the instrument
board which somebody subsequently had tampered with. He said a photographer
for a Des Moines newspaper the following day has posed deputies on the top
wing, and that others had climbed on it until it started to cave in.
According to Brower, Conroy, who with S. G. Warner, of Sioux City, owned the
plane, did not have a license to fly passengers for hire. He said Conroy
was licensed to carry passengers, if he did it for nothing, but not for
WAITING FOR PILOT
According to Brower, and also Fred Vernon, Conroy and Vernon flew the plane
up to Craig from Sioux City. Here they were to establish a ground base and
wait for Brower to do the passenger flying.
Brower, however, was unable to get transportation and did not arrive.
Conroy hated to see all the possible business going to waste and determined
to fly passengers himself. He did not, of course, think there was any
danger in it as he considered himself capable of handling a plane. He could
not get a transport pilot's license without the necessary hours in the air,
and he thought the pay-passengers would help him get hours in the air.
WENT INTO SPIN
Fred Vernon, a student pilot, was the only eye-witness with technical
knowledge to see the accident. He said Conroy flew over the landing field,
and it appeared first that he was going to land. He overshot the field,
however, and attempted to turn. At this point he went into a steep spin.
He was flying too low to come out of it.
FUNERALS FOR CRASH VICTIMS
Dommer Buried Today-Baack Tomorrow
Funerals for the victims of the Craig airplane accident were arranged for
two days, one today and the other tomorrow.
Frederick Wm. Dommer, was born May 17, 1914 at Craig, Iowa, and was 23 years
of age at the time of his death. Frederick attended the Preston township
school and was a member of St. John's Lutheran church as well as the Luther
He leaves to mourn his passing, his mother, two sisters, Katherine and
Adeline, a brother, Edward, his grandmother, Katherine Gerdes. His father
preceded him in death on May 23, 1935.
Funeral serviced were held this afternoon at 2 o'clock from St. John's
Lutheran church at Craig, with Rev. Hannemann officiating at the services.
Burial was in the Craig cemetery. Luken's funeral directors are in charge
Clarence W. Baack, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Baack, was born May 26, 1912, in
Reading township, Sioux County. At the time of his death he had reached the
age of 25 years and 3 months.
On February 23, 1936, he was united in marriage to Miss Florenz Herzberg,
who as his sorrowing widow, survives him.
Other survivors are his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Baack, six brothers,
Carl, Fred, Herman, George, Edward and Walter, and two sisters, Louise and
Funeral services will be held on Tuesday afternoon at 2'oclock from St.
John's Lutheran church at Craig, with Rev. L. G. Hannemann officiating.
Burial will be in the Craig cemetery, with Lukens' in charge of
Pallbearers will be: Amos Croon, Chris Johnson, George Ohler, Chris
Herzberg, Herman Eggebrecht, John Kloss.
The entire community joins in extending deepest sympathy to the families
bereaved by the untimely deaths of these two young men.
ANXIOUS HOURS FOR VERNONS
Dr. and Mrs. F. G. Vernon, parents of Fred Vernon, had some anxious hours as
the result of the plane crash at Craig. The first they knew their son was
possibly involved was when a Sioux City newspaper called and asked "how
badly your son was hurt."
Dr. Vernon said he didn't even know his son was out of town. He started
burning up the telephone wires to Craig in an effort to get some
information, but nobody there was able to give him any information.
Finally he appealed to the telephone operator to put him in touch with
someone who could give him some information, and the operator then connected
him with a Globe-Post reporter.
"How bad was Fred hurt?" asked Dr. Vernon.
"He wasn't hurt at all," said the reporter. "He wasn't even on the plane.
He might have been, but he got out in order to make room for an extra
It developed later that the boy felt he should stay with the plane. He did
not realize that news of the disaster would reach his parents so quickly,
and therefore did not take the time to go to Craig to telephone them.
When Dr. Vernon heard that his son had talked for quite a while with the
reporter, and was positively not hurt, he was greatly relieved.
SOUVENIR HUNTERS COMPLETE WRECK OF PLANE
According to reports received this morning, souvenir hunters have just about
completed the wreckage of the plane at Craig. Large pieces of the wings,
instruments, and even parts of the engine were stripped from the wrecked
After the department of commerce inspector looked the plane (over) the
county guards were withdrawn and it was up to the owners, but they showed no
The inspector found a pin slipped out of a devise on one of the controls,
and expressed the opinion that this was the cause of the wreck.
~Transcribed and submitted by volunteer, Mary Holub.
"Viewed from the right side of the wrecked plane, this picture gives some idea of the jumbled condition of the fuselage and cockpit. Note the tall corn, which completely hid the plane from view."
"Flat as a pancake was this front end of the plane, which was completely crushed, like paper. It was almost impossible to identify the propeller hub."