1961 Plane Crash Killed the Entire US Figure Skating Team — inside the Terrible Tragedy

A tragic plane crash in 1961 killed all the members of the U.S. Figure Skating Team. They were going to the World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

As reported by Time, the star-spangled athletes were expected to score medals in the competition. They were also scheduled to begin preparations for the 1964 Olympics.

Meanwhile, the terrible tragedy also claimed the lives of their loved ones, as well as the judges, officials, and coaches. The plane crash is one of the most unforgettable tragedies to this day.

The 18 members of the U.S. figure skating team as they boarded the ill-fated Belgian airliner for a flight to Brussels in February 1961. | Photo: Getty Images

The 18 members of the U.S. figure skating team as they boarded the ill-fated Belgian airliner for a flight to Brussels in February 1961. | Photo: Getty Images

THEY WERE ALL EXCITED

Before the accident, the team posed on the steps of the Boeing 707. Extreme happiness and excitement were evident on their faces. They were about to fly to Brussels en route to Prague.

Albeit some of these hopeful young people were experienced competitors, many were untried, and the trip gave them a jump start on the new four-year Olympic cycle. 

Skating memorial dedicated to Broadmoor Figure Skating Club members of United States World Figure Skating team. | Photo: Getty Images

Skating memorial dedicated to Broadmoor Figure Skating Club members of United States World Figure Skating team. | Photo: Getty Images

THE FATEFUL DAY

The team's plane, Sabena Flight 548, was circling the runway in Brussels when it suddenly crashed on the morning of Feb. 15, 1961, killing the entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team and 55 others.

This plane crash is not the only air disaster that involves an American sports team.

THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT

The young athletes were mourned across the nation, and the International Skating Union officials would wind up dropping the world championships that year.

In a statement, President John F. Kennedy stated: "Our country has sustained a great loss of talent and grace which had brought pleasure to people all over the world."

President John F. Kennedy addressed a press conference, circa 1963. | Photo: Getty Images

President John F. Kennedy addressed a press conference, circa 1963. | Photo: Getty Images

President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, also extended their most profound compassion to the loved ones of all the passengers and crew who were killed in the plane crash.

According to history, the investigators could not determine the plane accident's exact cause. Nevertheless, mechanical troubles were suspected. 

After the tragedy, Figure Skater Peggy Fleming would not capture Olympic gold until 1968. Figure Skater Scott Hamilton, on the other hand, would not do so until 1984.

This plane crash is not the only air disaster that involves an American sports team. In 1970, 37 players on the Marshall University football team were also killed in a plane crash in West Virginia.

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