Wilmette Boy Was Sole Survivor For 1 Night

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of the first major disaster of the jet age.

On Dec. 16, 1960, two airliners, one a United Airlines flight from Chicago, collided in mid-air over New York.

The United Airlines DC-8 collided with a Trans World Airlines Constellation in midflight over Staten Island. The TWA plane went down near a military airstrip in Staten Island, while the United plane crashed in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. The New York Times reports a funeral home and a church were destroyed.

All 128 people on board the two planes, and six people on the ground, were killed.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger reports, initially, there was one survivor – an 11-year-old boy from Wilmette.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Regine Schlesinger Reports

Stephen Baltz was on the United flight, going to join his mother and younger sister on a visit to his grandparents’ home in New York. He had remained at home a couple of extra days because of a sore throat.

Severely burned after the crash, Stephen was found alive in a snowbank. For all of that horrible Friday, doctors worked to save him as a nation prayed for his recovery and was riveted by his story.

Churchgoers in New York that night carried newspapers with Stephen’s picture and prayed for him, the New York Times recalled. Swarms of New Yorkers offered blood transfusions for Stephen, who was reportedly waking up and speaking in the hospital.

But Stephen died the next day, Dec. 17.

Stephen’s sister, Randee Kadziel, says this time of year is always difficult.

“I also lost my first baby boy 22 years after the crash, on Dec. 17, and we named him Stephen,” Kadziel said.

Kadziel says she saw her son’s death on the same date as a sign from her older brother that it was time for her to regain her faith. She says both Stephens now are always with her.

More On The Disaster From CBSNewYork.com