October 6, 2005 Fiftieth Anniversary of the Medicine Bow Peak DC-4 Accident

I was contacted by Leslie Merrill in September about the information about the DC-4 on my website. Leslie's husband, Peter Merril, is the son of the Merrills who were killed in the crash. Peter and Leslie were planning to come out to visit the site on the 50th anniversary.

Mel Duncan, the local expert on the crash history and the person who placed the marker at the overlook in 2001 was contacted and would make himself available for a visit. Alan Cass of Boulder, who contributed such good information to this website was invited to attend and, as it happened, the University of Wyoming at Laramie was planning an exhibit regarding the wreck. John Waggener is the assistant curator who arranged this.

The weather was pleasant and clear for the drive up though there had been a light overnight snow making the crest of the Medicine Bow range near the crash site stand out white and clear as viewed from Laramie. Alan went up to Laramie the night before and met with the Merrills at the overlook on Snowy Range road and took some pictures. At 1 PM we all met at the American Heritage Center of the U. of Wyoming.

It's a bit awkward to attend an event noting a tragedy when it wasn't your own tragedy. I'm sure Peter was wondering what kind of people would be interested in the tragedy that changed the course of his life so long ago. And we visitors have an awkward time displaying both interest and respect for the situation. As far as I can tell everyone got what they wanted out of the event and then some.

John Waggener had laid out a display of newspaper clippings, photographs and most startling, a propellor blade. Alan Cass brought digital photos from Rocky Mountain Rescue's archives and Mel Duncan brought his fabulous store of area knowlege, history of the wreck and similar airplanes and his lovely wife, Norma.

We spent a pleasant afternoon learning about the event and making new friends. In particular I think that Mel Duncan is to be thanked for his attention to the history of the crash and his willingness to share what he knows with everyone who asks. He's a fine fellow and very active in preserving Wyoming aviation history.  

(Click on the image to get a larger version of the same picture.)
Peter and Leslie Merrill, Mel Duncan,
Norma Duncan, Ron Miller, John Waggener.
Not shown: Alan Cass.
(Picture Courtesy Alan Cass)
L-R: John Waggener, Leslie
Merrill, Peter Merrill contemplate
the propellor blade. 
(Photo: American Heritage Center, 
University of Wyoming, 
Image part of Job 80,
UAL Flight 409.)
"Disaster Wall" on Medicine Bow Peak.
Impact was on the vertical flat spot at the top left
corner of this picture. (Picture courtesy 
Alan Cass.)


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Last Modified: 1/1/2008