Stateside
5:37 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

New book helps answer questions about a mysterious Lake Michigan plane crash

An interview with shipwreck explorer and author Valerie van Heest.

It was 63 years ago when Northwest Flight 2501 took off from La Guardia in New York on a non-stop flight to Minneapolis.

Flight 2501 never made it to its destination. The DC-4 prop liner vanished in a storm over Lake Michigan off the coast of South Haven. The 55 passengers and crew of three were lost.

That crash has become one of the great mysteries of the Great Lakes.

Shipwreck explorer and author Valerie van Heest has joined forces with popular author Clive Cussler, trying to figure out what happened to Flight 2501. Her new book "Fatal Crossing" is out from In-Depth Editions.

“There was a brewing storm in the Midwest, and the captain, Robert Lind, a 34-year-old pilot, he was given noticed by the company that he would be encountering some weather,” Valerie explained. “Now this was nothing that he hadn’t experienced dozens of times before. He’d been flying that route over Lake Michigan to Minneapolis and on to Seattle for many years, but obviously this storm stopped him. There’s seems no doubt, this many years later, that the accident was storm-related, but the mystery is, we don’t know where it occurred.”

The last thing anyone heard from the plane was a radio call from the captain at 12:13 a.m. asking for clearance to fly lower, a request which was denied by air traffic control. Hours later, the biggest search to ever occur on the Great Lakes was launched.

“It took them two days to find small bits of debris, including clothing and luggage, and some seat cushions, and, tragically, pieces of human flesh floating on the surface of Lake Michigan,” said Valerie.

The fact that no in-tact bodies were found is evidence of just how devastating this crash was.

Valerie has been searching for Flight 2501 since 2004 along with Clive Cussler. Initially, what attracted them to the story was the mystery, but Valerie said that over time her reason for searching has changed.

“It was not so much about finding the plane; it was finding the stories of these people, their lives, what happened to them, how their lives were cut short,” she said. “It’s reminded me that our loved ones, while they might be gone, can always be remembered.”

Valerie van Heest joined us today from Holland.

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Listen to the full interview above.