|Memorial plaque at the Constellation Trailhead honors the victims.|
February 28th, 1959 was another "darned nice day" weather-wise in Prescott. William Watson who was visiting family in the area was driving north on State Route 89 with his nephew Robert Schilling. As they rounded a curve in the vicinity of the Phippen Art Museum, "the windshield filled with airplane." (*1)
Plunging into the shoulder of the road before them was an Air Force Lockheed C-121G "Super Constellation" transport plane. It exploded on impact sending flames several hundred feet into the air. (*2)
William and Robert rushed out of their car to see if they could help. But the heat of the flames combined with now exploding small ammunition drove them back.
Sam Steiger, who would later serve as a U.S. Congressman and Prescott Mayor, and who owned a ranch across the way, "saw the ship at about 300 feet" coming down in a "vertical dive with one propeller feathered." (*1)
"(Other) eyewitnesses said the plane winged over and plowed nose first into the ground." (*1)
"Persons miles away from the crash scene said they saw a huge flame billow into the sky and heard a tremendous explosion. Others were attracted to the scene by huge clouds of black smoke." (*2)
A mere seven minutes before the crash, the plane radioed in to report a small forest fire south of Prescott. There was no mention of any problems with the plane at that time. (*1)
The lack of a distress call, along with the perfect weather, all added to a mystery that remains to this day.