The explosion of United Air Lines Flight 629 is the deadliest attack on a commercial airline flight ever to happen over Colorado. One of the first attacks on a flight in the United States, and to this day one of the worst in history. In fact, for the state of Colorado, it is the deadliest act of mass murder ever committed. The explosion killed 44 people on board, all five crew members, and 39 passengers.
Taking off from Denver’s Stapleton Airport on November 1st, 1955, the flight was supposed to fly to Portland, Oregon. But just eleven minutes after takeoff, the Stapleton control town saw a huge flash of white light with flares in the distance. The air traffic controllers quickly contacted all flights in the area, but flight 629 did not respond.
Investigators later learned that the explosion was not an accident, it had been caused by a young man. A man that had spent years being angry at his mother. As a result, he packed in 25 sticks of dynamite in her suitcase. Which exploded while the plan was 5,780 feet above the ground, eight miles over farmland in Colorado. Moments after the explosion police lines were flooded by reports of a ball of fire that lit up the sky. And thousands quickly went out to the area to search the wreckage for survivors.
Police quickly arrived on the scene with firefighters, infamously, they took just a couple of minutes to realize that no ambulances were necessary. Hundreds of volunteer searchers went through fields of hay and forests to locate everybody. Newspapers describe scenes of horror and death, with flames blazing. But what became clear just hours after the crash from investigators, the explosion was too great to be a malfunction. This was a deliberate attack, and they figured out it was dynamite.
The investigation led them to Graham King, who had a troubled and angry relationship with his mother. He loaded the dynamite time bomb into her luggage and logged the suitcase in for her at the counter. FBI saw him as the prime suspect after they discovered he had bought insurance in his mother’s name for the flight, naming him as the beneficiary. During questioning, King broke down and admitted to planting the bomb. Later in court, King was sentenced to death and executed by gas chamber 14 months later.