Fifty years ago Monday, a Delta airliner crashed at Logan Airport, killing 88 of the 89 people on board; the only survivor died several months later. The Boston Globe reports on how the families of the victims are getting by those years later. Below is an email I received from former Globe editor Matt Storin on what it was like to cover those tragic events — and how the accident and its aftermath changed the rules of media access.
I was city editor at the time and when we learned of the crash, we of course scrambled everyone available. Some reporters were dispatched to hospitals (to no avail, since there was only one survivor that day), and others were sent to Logan. We even looked into chartering a boat to have [photographer] Bill Brett arrive by crossing the bay. But this wasn’t necessary. Unlike any other airline tragedy I’ve seen covered, there was no attempt by Logan officials to secure the crash site from the press. Our photographers got ON THE RUNWAY even as first responders were working. You wouldn’t believe some of the photos, bodies shown still in their seats (as I recall there were no signs of injuries from fire). Of course we didn’t publish those, but the ones we did publish were shot from short distances. I noted that today’s Globe story did not include a photo of the Aug. 1 morning paper. I wondered if there was a feeling that the photos would be too painful even at this late date.
I thought we did a good job of coverage. John Burke came in from the North Shore and assembled his team of suburban correspondents. They worked diligently through the late afternoon and early evening to get the list of victims with, where possible, bio information. To this day I’ve never forgotten what they accomplished on deadline. But to give you an example of how close our reporters got, I received a call on the city desk that evening from someone at the Pentagon. One of the deceased had been a Navy intelligence officer traveling with classified documents. They somehow knew that one of these documents had been picked up by Frank Mahoney, one of our reporters on the scene. Frank had not mentioned anything to us about this. When I called him at home, he confirmed that he had the document. I believe we got it into the right hands the next morning. I never inquired about what was on it. Under the circumstances, especially since we should have reported the find to the authorities, I decided not to draw any further attention to what happened.
As memory serves from half a century ago, I believe that within weeks Logan Airport advised news media of new guidelines for covering any incidents at the airport. Reporters and photographers were advised they should report to a media center in one of the terminals.
This is probably of little interest today, but today’s story brought back memories…. I’m not sure what happened to those shocking photos but I have a vague recollection of ordering that they be destroyed. In light of the lawsuit in the Kobe Bryant case, that would have been prudent.