PBY Crash

15 May 1949  

Sunday morning 15 May 1949 was a beautiful sunny May day.  I was 12 years old at the time and lived on Cherry Island 3/8 of a mile west of the point of Horse Island.  From this location it was routine to see the PBY’s  landing on the Detroit River.  I saw the plane land and stop, suddenly I realized that the plane was sinking and many boats were coming out from Horse Island and Gibraltar.  One of the boats was the white cruiser “Bobbi – Jo” belonging to Casimir Slowinski of Horse Island.

            PB4Y-5A Buno 34014 was engaged in routine water landing practice on the Detroit River with a crew of nine aboard.  The pilot was Lt.(jg) Michael N. Zelenock, 26 and the copilot was Lt.(jg) William J. O’Brien, 28.  As the plane landed just south of Horse Island the left wing-tip float hit an obstacle in the water and the plane “Water Looped”.

            The two pilots and five enlisted men crawled out on the right wing which remained above the water.  Two additional enlisted men were trapped in the wreckage.  They were AA Frank E. Hayes, 18, son of Mr. and Mrs.Frank E. Hayes of Dearborn and FN Rudolph G. Jaworski, 22’ of Carleton.  Attempts to chop through the fuselage to save the men were futile.  Casimir Slowinski took four surviors off the wing in a short time with his cruiser.

            William F. Dennison AD2, 42 was injured in the crash.  He could not make it to the cruiser.  Two men put him in a rubber raft and started for the cruiser, but the current was carring it down stream until Bernard Parvin towed it with a motor boat to the cruiser.  Dennison was taken to the Veterans Hospital in Dearborn where he was treated for a broken leg and a skull injury. 

            In the late afternoon only the sun could be seen reflecting off the wing.

John P. Sanger, LT USNR Ret.
Litchfield, MI
14 May 2000

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Revised: June 30, 2010