1950 Plane Crash Has Austin Connection

Updated: 07/31/2015 7:11 PM
Created: 06/26/2014 7:28 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 News) -- Flight 2501 was scheduled to make a stop in Minneapolis on its way from New York to Seattle.

It never made it.

64 years ago this week, the plane went down in Lake Michigan, and there’s an Austin connection.

“I was only about ten, but I remember so clearly how this all played out," Dick Hagelund told us.

When flight 2501 vanished from radar, it claimed the lives of 58 people, including Dick Hagelund’s uncle, Merle Barton.

"He had a beauty shop in Austin," Dick Hagelund told us. “He went to New York city to learn some new hair styles."

Merle Barton was 35 years old when he died.

"He was a very gentle, caring person," Dick Hagelund said. “The women liked him because he had curly hair and he was a real handsome looking guy. The investigators and the police believe they ran into a bad storm over Lake Michigan, and lightning had struck the plane."

It was June 24th, 1964.

"They had some of the belongings of the passengers, including merle's jacket and his scissors," Dick Hagelund said. They also found Merle Barton's New York hotel receipt and a check register that shows the 94 dollars he paid for his plane ticket. But originally, Merle Barton wasn't scheduled to be aboard the ill-fated flight.

"He had called his wife Vanessa the day earlier and said I'm not taking the flight I'm scheduled on, there's an opening on the flight coming tomorrow. That was flight 2501. He says I'm taking that flight because I want to get home and see you and Cathy and boom, that was it."

64 years ago, friends of Merle Barton and his family packed an Austin church for his funeral.

"I do remember grandma saying to mom and dad afterward I wanted to see him in the casket, and it just wasn't to be," Dick Hagelund said.