(Originally published by the Daily News on April 6, 1977. This story was written by Mark Liff, Harry Stathos and Brian Kates.)
Seven persons, including Alexander (Sandy) Guterma — who was implicated in some of the biggest stock frauds of the 1960s — were killed yesterday in the crash of a private plane in a wooded area of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx.
The sole survivor of the crash, Guterma’s 14-year-old son Mark, was in critical condition at Jacobi Hospital.
The 62-year-old financier’s second wife, Sandra, 35, and his children, Carol, 31; Brandon, 11, and Brock, 12, all died in the crash, as did the pilot, Bob Holiday, 39, of Cleveland. Another daughter, Caren, 25, died on the way to the hospital, authorities said.
“Don’t Know What Happened”
The turbo-prop plane, a Japanese-made Mitsubishi 2 that cost over 0,000, was making its final approach to LaGuardia Airport when it apparently became trapped in a blanket of fog and rain.
The 11-seater, on an instrument landing system approach, was cleared for landing and was last seen on the radar screen at Laguardia at 2:30 p.m. It crashed about 2 ½ miles from the airport.
“We simply don’t know what happened yet,” a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.
The plane came in low over the woods, shearing off the tops of trees in the murky fog before it crashed, about 150 yards short of hitting homes at the corner of Watt and Stadium Aves.
Coming in from Kentucky.
Debris was scattered over a 300-yard radius in Pelham Bay Park.
The flight originated at Somerset-Pulaski Airport, in Somerset, Ky., where Guterma, who lived in Boca Raton, Fla., owns the Mount Victory Coal Co.
Guterma — who was born in Siberia and educated in China — became known in in the press as “Mr. X” after the mysterious, multi-national financial pyramid he constructed collapsed in the lap of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the late 50s and early 60s.
Implicated in millions of dollars worth of stock swindles, Guterma was sentenced in 1960 to 4 years and 11 months in federal prison on a fraud conviction. While serving the sentence he also was convicted and fined on charges of serving as an agent of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujilo, from whom he accepted 0,000 to broadcast political propaganda through the Mutual Broadcasting network, which he owned.
He was released two years early, after he testified for the government against some former associates.
Later he became president of the United Communities Corp. and its 25 subsidiaries, which recently were involved in a controversial plan to develop Great Harbor Cay in the Bahamas as a resort.
He reportedly stepped down as president of that concern in June 1975 “for health reasons,” a source in Boca Raton said.
“I was playing baseball in the park across the street when suddenly I heard a noise coming out of the sky,” said John Cirillo, 14. “It sounded like an engine stuttering. It started and stopped. Then we saw it come down. It hit across the top of the branches.
“Heard Terrible Roar”
“At first, we thought it hit the houses. There was no fire, just a lot of smoke. It looked like the pilot was trying to bring it up. His wings kept tipping to the left.”
Another neighborhood youth, Joseph Sciascia, 13 said: “I was near the park entrance and I saw it crash into the trees. Pieces were flying everywhere. We ran to call the police.”
“I heard this terrible roar,” said Helen Carozza, who lives opposite the crash site. “I thought it was a truck out of control. What a thud! It bounced.” She said she saw the plane slam into some trees and then flip over on its back before crashing.
Trapped in the wreckage, Mark moaned, “God, my feet hurt. Help me! Get me out!” according to police Officer Thomas Holihan, one of the first rescuers at the scene.
Holihan said he had to remove Holiday’s body with a rope before he could get to the injured youth. The bodies of the other victims had to be freed with buzzsaws and hydraulic jacks.
Although there was a ceiling of 500 feet at Laguardia at the time of the crash with a visibility of 2 ½ miles, Carl Evers, who operates a seaplane base near the crash scene, said: “This was not a flying day. The ceiling’s been down. It’s a lousy day.
Family Vacation Trip
Guterma, had planned the trip to New York at least two weeks ago, according to a friend, Dagny Woodcock, who was to have made the trip with them, but canceled.
“It was to have been a long-awaited family vacation — a time for them all to get together,” Ms. Woodcock said.
She said that Guterma announced the trip at Mark’s birthday party two weeks ago. They picked the date, she said, because it was one of the few time that Caron, a real estate dealer, could make the trip.
- Join the Conversation: