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Long Forgotten NWA Crash In Mpls. Stirs Memories

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77692_Bill Hudson WEB Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s among the most beautiful parkways in the Twin Cities. Thousands of people walk, run and bike the trails that follow the meandering Minnehaha Creek through south Minneapolis. But on March 7, 1950, the scenic neighborhood is where then 15-year-old Dianne Doughty-Madsen’s family was ripped apart.

“Everything just exploded and I have no idea. Your first reaction is self preservation and I just jumped up and dove out the window,” recalled Dianne.

Sadly, her 8-year-old brother Tommy and her 10-year-old sister Janet could not. The children had just gone upstairs and were tucked into bed when a crippled Northwest Airlines plane plowed into the family’s home.

Flight 307, a Martin 2-0-2 twin-prop passenger plane, was coming in for a landing at the nearby Wold-Chamberlain Field when it flew too low during a snowstorm and clipped a tall flagpole at Fort Snelling cemetery.

The damaged plane managed to circle around for another landing attempt when the wing broke off near Washburn High School and the plane careened into the Doughty home.

Tommy, Janet and 13 passengers and crew aboard the plane were killed instantly.

Looking through a pile of black and white photographs of the charred wreckage, Dianne says, “This is where my house was. That’s all that’s left of it.”

For Dianne, the photos and yellowed news clippings are still tough to comprehend after all these years. She rarely, if ever, brings them out. Only recently did she retrieve the cardboard box of clippings and her sibling’s belongings as interest in the seldom told story began to grow.

Few people living in the Twin Cities today ever heard of the tragic event. Sixty-one years is a long time for such a tragic event to fade from memory. Fewer still could ever imagine Dianne’s many years of pain.

“I don’t know why it was forgotten but it was,” said Dianne.

That could soon change. Former Minneapolis councilman Mark Kaplan met with Dianne to learn more about the tragedy.

“It hits a button somewhere in people,” he said.

Kaplan is building a case for a memorial plaque to be placed at the crash site. He says when he learned of the fateful night, he was compelled to make certain it won’t be forgotten.

“Our next generation, when they’re walking up and down the parkway, might have the chance to read what happened, think about it, learn about it and have a greater sense of the history of things that happened in south Minneapolis,” he said.

Kaplan has already approached People for Parks, the organization which could serve as a conduit for collecting the necessary $5,000 in donations required to erect the historic marker. His next step is to get the support of the Minneapolis Parks Board, which oversees the land on which the memorial would stand. 

For the memories of the 15 lives claimed by the tragedy, including her brother and sister, Dianne says a memorial of that date in Minneapolis history would mean so very much.

“That somebody really cares enough to do that, I think it’s wonderful, yes,” she said.

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