Saturday, October 24, 2015

#CollisionWithFame: Jeff Burkett, October 24, 1947

Jeff Burkett, the rookie punter for the Chicago Cardinals, was one of 53 people who died when United Air Lines flight 608, a DC-6, exploded over Bryce Canyon, Utah. The flight was headed from Los Angeles to Chicago. During a fuel transfer the overflow leaked and was ignited by the cabin heater combustion air intake scoop. When the cabin heater came on, an explosion and fire destroyed the plane killing all 53 aboard. The Civil Aeronautics Board blamed both design flaws and the failure of the crew in training and performance. Burkett was in LA because the Cardinals were playing the Los Angeles Rams.  The rookie punter from out of LSU had suffered an appendicitis attack and missed both the game (lost by Chicago) and the team flight home.  At the time he was the league’s leading punter, averaging 47.4 yard per kick. The Cardinals nonetheless went on to win the NFL title behind the play of former Maxwell Award winner Charley Trippi (UGA), who also took over the punting.