On the evening of Feb. 15, 1961, Sabena Flight 548 departed New York City with a precious cargo: the entire U.S. figure skating team. The flight was slated for Brussels, Belgium, but never arrived, crashing a few miles short of Brussels' Zaventem Airport. Eighteen skaters, six coaches, 10 judges and 38 other passengers died in the crash. On the 50th anniversary of the catastrophe, SI.com takes a moment to remember those who lost their lives that day.
2 of 10Jerry Cooke/Sports Illustrated
On Jan. 29, 1961, Laurence Owen took home the U.S. ladies' figure skating title and instantly became a household name. Sports Illustrated hailed her as "America's most exciting girl skater," and she was considered the favorite for the 1961 world figure skating championships in Prague, where the U.S. team was headed when Sabena Flight 548 crashed.
3 of 10Hy Peskin/Sports Illustrated
Coach Maribel Vinson-Owen
Mother to both Laurence and Maribel Owen, Maribel Vinson-Owen also served as their coach. A former figure skater herself, Vinson-Owen won a bronze medal at the 1932 Winter Olympics.
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Dudley Richards, Maribel Owen
Older sister to Laurence Owen, Maribel Owen and her skating partner, Dudley Richards, won the 1961 U.S. pairs national championship and were slated to skate at the 1961 worlds. Maribel Owen was 20 at the time of her death; Richards was 29.
5 of 10Courtesy of USFSA
A junior title winner at 14, Gregory Kelley was fresh off a silver medal at U.S. worlds at the time of the crash. He was 16. His sister Nathalie was also killed in the crash.
6 of 10Courtesy of USFSA
Rhode Lee Michelson
Despite a hip injury, Rhode Lee Michelson was still slated to skate in the world championships. She was just 17 at the time of the crash.
7 of 10Courtesy of USFSA
Patricia Dineen, Robert Dineen
Robert Dineen and wife Patricia won an ice dancing bronze in the senior division at the 1961 U.S. figure skating championships, earning them the right to compete in Prague.
8 of 10Courtesy of USFSA
Laurie Hickox, William Hickox
William Hickox and his sister Laurie competed as a pair and won a bronze medal at the U.S. championships. Laurie was only 15 at the time of the crash; William 19.
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Wreckage of Sabena Flight 548
The exact cause of the plane crash was never determined. Many speculate, however, that an issue with the stabilizer was to blame. Out of sympathy for the Americans, the 1961 world championships were canceled that year.
10 of 10Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Hall of Fame Induction
In January 2011, members of the 1961 U.S. figure skating team were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. During the ceremony, Paul Wylie and Peggy Fleming read the names of those who died in the crash.
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