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In 1962, Jim Peek was 8 years old when he saw a military jet crash on the opening day of the Seattle World's Fair. Photo by Hansi Lo Wang.

In 1962, Jim Peek was 8 years old when he saw a military jet crash on the opening day of the Seattle World's Fair. Photo by Hansi Lo Wang.


Remembering A Seattle World's Fair Tragedy

Hansi Lo Wang

A young eyewitness saw that plane crash unfold on the opening day of the Seattle World's Fair.

Jim Peek: "When I was 8 years old, I witnessed the start of an airplane crash."

That was Jim Peek, who still remembers that day in 1962. KUOW's Hansi Lo Wang spoke with him this week about what he saw.


Jim Peek remembers his family couldn't get tickets for the opening day of the 1962 World's Fair. So instead, he met up with a few friends to play baseball at a field at John Rogers Elementary School. Then —

Peek: "Out of nowhere, to the south, came a fighter plane. I didn't realize a plane was even coming by because it was quiet. But all of a sudden, I heard this noise."

Sound: (Peek mimics jet plane sounds)

Peek: "Kind of rumbling, spurting. And I looked up, and it was a big glow of kind of red, orange flame coming out of the backend of the fighter plane. And all of a sudden, there was no noise at all. The plane finally had stopped making noises, and it was just gliding. And it was going over a hillside, and it went out of sight. And I thought, well, that's the end of that. And then the next thing I saw was a parachute. We were figuring, wow, this is a plane crash! You know, wow! Well, we were with an adult, and so it was his idea: Let's get in the car and go see what's going to happen!"

So he hopped in the car with his friend's dad, and they headed off to follow the parachute and jet plane. But they soon lost sight of both. What they did see was a big, black plume of smoke coming from the crash site at Mountlake Terrace. By the time they arrived at the scene —

Peek: "Pretty much the fire was out. It was really smoldering. We got out of the car and started walking, probably within a block away. And then the police told us that we had to get out of there. So we, we went back to the car and went home."

Peek says he has mixed feelings when he thinks back on that day, April 21, 1962.

Peek: "You know, obviously it was a very exciting day with the start of the World's Fair. But on the other hand, this event happened with the plane. It cost two people their lives. But the weirdest thing about this whole event for me is that I've never seen it on TV again, never hear about it. If I just casually mention it to somebody, they say, oh no, I don't know a thing about that. It's almost like I dreamed it."

That was Jim Peek of Bainbridge Island, an eyewitness to the World's Fair plane crash 49 years ago this week.

For KUOW News, I'm Hansi Lo Wang.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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