Long Forgotten NWA Crash In Mpls. Stirs Memories

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.

More from Bill Hudson

One Comment

  1. Eric the Red says:

    Do the 15 fatalities mentioned include the crew?

    1. Mark Kaplan says:

      Three crew died: The pilot, the co-pilot and the flight attendant. Ten passengers died. The two children in the house died, making a total of 15 fatalities.

  2. As jack said says:

    According to Wiki when a search is done on this aircraft, NWA had two other crashes with this aircraft in Minnesota before this event and after this event:

    August 1948 – Northwest Airlines Flight 421 crashed after losing a wing near Winona, Minnesota, United States, 37 fatalities

    March 1950 – Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 307 crashed after hitting a flag pole near Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, United States. 15 fatalities including two on the ground.[

    October 1950 – A Norwest Orient 2-0-2 crashed on a training flight at Almelund, Minnesota, United States, 6 fatalities.

  3. Bud says:

    Why? It’s the same airline.

    1. Tom Willard says:

      Does the name really matter?

  4. Jerry says:

    This one was a Navy jet fighter;http://blogs2.startribune.com/blogs/oldnews/archives/31
    I don’t recall if it was an adult, or a kid that was caught trying to run of with a helmet.
    There was another one, a bomber, a couple years later that crash into the river bottom at the end of a runway. I remember it was at dusk and light up the sky for miles. At first they thought it might be carrying a nuclear weapon, that turn out not to be true. At this one two men were caught trying to run off with a plexiglass canopy.

  5. Barb Lotsberg says:

    Good luck Mark Kaplan in this pursuit. A emorial plaque is the least that can be done for these people.

  6. Margaret Collins says:

    Thank you Mark. My dad was one of the fatalities. I had just turned three years old and have no real memory of him.

    1. Mark Kaplan says:

      Margaret: I appreciate the history of your family. I have been hoping that relatives of the passengers and crew would come forth and will be there when and if a memorial marker is installed.

  7. Mary Parker says:

    My uncle was a passenger on that plane. He left a wife and three children – the youngest was 8 years old. That eight year old is now 70, and the only one still living. I know my cousin would love to be there when the memorial marker is installed, as would I. Incidentally, he was late for his plane – they put the stairs back so he could get on. How can we know when the memorial marker will be installed?

    1. Mark Kaplan says:

      I am keeping a list of persons who have asked to stay informed as the memorial marker process moves forward. Feel free to e-mail me at mark.kaplan@endless-dreaming.net. The passenger list was printed in the Minneapolis newspapers on March 8, 1950. One passenger was from Minneapolis; one was from North Dakota and the rest appeared to be from eastern states who were coming here for various reasons.

      1. Cynthia Miller says:

        I saw Barbara Flannigan’s piece about the planned memorial marker in this mornings paper. My father was the captian of the flight. I was 4 years old. My brother was 12 and my sister was 17. The annniversary is still painfull, especially for my mom. Thank you so much for doing this.

        1. Mark Kaplan says:

          We have had some good success raising the necessary funds for the historical marker. You can reach me at mark.kaplan@endless-dreaming.net or 612 978 5678 to make sure that your relatives are invited to the dedication.

        2. Mark Kaplan says:

          We have set the date, time and place of the dedication ceremony. It will start at the Lynnhurst Park Building on the corner of Minnehaha Parkway and West 50th Street in Minneapolis. There will be a few speeches at 2 PM and at about 2:30 folks will walk the 5 blocks to the site of the marker for its unveiling. This will be across the street from the house now located at 1114 West Minnehaha Parkway, approximately the corner of the parkway and Emerson Avenue.

          Mark Kaplan 612-978-5678.

    2. Mark Kaplan says:

      We have had good success raising funds for the historical marker. You can contact me directly at mark.kaplan@endless-dreaming.net or 612 978 5678 to ensure that invitations to the dedication go to your relatives

    3. Mark Kaplan says:

      The dedication of the memorial marker will be Saturday, August 27, 2011 commencing at 2 PM at the Lynnhurst Park Building located on the corner of West 50th Street and West Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis. After a few speeches the group will walk the 5 blocks to the site of the crash, now identified as 1114 West Minnehaha Parkway and essentially the corner of Emerson Avenue South and West Minnehaha Parkway. The public is cordially invited to take part.

  8. Mark Kaplan says:

    One April 20th the Minneapolis Park Board passed a resolution authorizing People for Parks to raise money for the installation of an historical/memorial marker commemorating the event. Those who wish to donate can follow this link:


  9. Jason Bakker says:

    This story shows some photos from the neighborhood where a plane crashed into homes in South Minneapolis in 1956. http://tiny.cc/iuy0n

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