09-Book-insertFATAL CROSSING: The Mysterious Disappearance of NWA Flight 2501 and the Quest for Answers by V.O. van Heest.

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The story of the country’s worst aviation disaster became  foder for strange tales and UFO abductions. With the new book, Fatal Crossing, the true story has emerged:


As a furious squall swept down Lake Michigan on June 23, 1950, a DC-4 with 58 souls on board flew from New York toward Minnesota. Minutes after midnight Captain Robert Lind requested a lower altitude as he began crossing the lake, but Air Traffic Control could not comply. That was the last communication with Northwest Airlines Flight 2501.

Shredded human remains washing up on the beaches of West Michigan served as evidence of the country’s worst commercial aviation disaster. The Navy and Coast Guard never located the wreck, rendering it impossible to determine a cause for this tragic accident.

Over a half century later, nationally acclaimed author and explorer Clive Cussler of the National Underwater Marine Agency teamed up with the Michigan Shipwreck Research Association to pick up the search where the government left off and attempt to solve the mystery of the plane’s disappearance.

This gripping and suspenseful narrative begins as the team sets out upon its quest, an expedition fraught with disappointments and surprising discoveries as the explorers plow through archives and scour the lake bottom. An unexpected meeting with a victim’s son prompts a search of a different kind, one that would be more illuminating than submerged sections of twisted aluminum. Weaving past and present together through meticulous research and heart-rending interviews, V. O. van Heest paints a captivating portrait of the victims, vividly recreates the last few hours of Flight 2501, and reveals that the answers are sometimes found in unexpected places.


The book Fatal Crossing is a labor of love by a lead member of the joint venture team, searching for the wreckage of Flight 2501. During ten years of research to try to narrow down the site of the accident, van Heest found even more valuable information—documents never before reviewed, families of the victims, officials involved in the investigation in 1950, northwest personnel, court documents, police records, and even two grave sites where the recovered remains of the victims were buried without notice or marking. This new information has allowed the author to reveal a moment-by-moment depiction of what took place on the plane and on the ground from the time it boarded passengers in New York to the time it disappeared over Lake Michigan to the search and investigation that followed.

In analyzing the newly uncovered data, the author has been able to conclude with a significant degree of certainty the reasons for the tragic accident and those reasons go far beyond such things as mechanical failure or a storm. Whether those who read the book are aviators, enthusiasts, or just those who enjoy a good read, this book contains lessons for all. Most importantly, this book provides some answers for the still-living family members of the victims, who until now had to sort through such nonsense as the “Lake Michigan Triangle.” It is the author’s deep regret that in providing those answers, the families must suffer through the more disturbing details.

The decision to release this book without the wreck having been found is discussed under the page entitled “Current Search.” While the search effort will continue, the author felt it was time for the story to be told. The research for this book took place during a small window of time in which the internet existed to allow the author to find people connected to the flight while they were still alive. Many of the people interviewed, including several direct relatives of victims, had already passed and the author felt it necessary that the others had a chance to read it, especially those who personally knew a victim.


Fatal Crossing has been very well received and is now in its fourth printing. Numerous accolades have poured in from readers, some who had heard about the accident, others who never did until the book came out, and some who had a personal connection to the Flight. Below are a few selected comments.

“This book wonderfully balances the details, which have been exhaustively researched: The carnage with the strings of the heart; the searches in the water and in the archives; in the lives of those ended that day; and in those loved ones who lived on, scarred by lack of closure. This book provides that closure.  My search has ended.  It put me softly by Ben and Slava’s graveside.  It quieted my questions and brought light to still the dark thoughts of my loved one’s mysterious passings. This book, and the untiring efforts to find answers to this fatal crossing, honor my grandparents, my family, and me.”

— George Heuston, Grandson of Benjamin and Slava Heuston, victims of Flight 2501.

“I enjoyed this book, especially the information  provided about the history of flight dispatchers and radio operators. I have been a flight dispatcher for 10 years and I learned a lot about the history of my profession. I will think of NWA 2501 throughout the rest of my career, especially when sending flights through marginal weather.”

–Derek J Manki, Flight Dispatcher/Flight Dispatch Instructor, United Airlines

“A great story, the author obviously got sucked in by something much larger than finding the aircraft – something far more important. The passengers and crew of this aircraft were largely forgotten by the curse of timing: the aircraft disappeared two days before the start of the Korean War. V. O. has given them a fitting memorial by telling their story.”

–Dave Parrish