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Champagne flight

July 24, 2007 | 10:32 pm

 

1957_0725_hed

July 25, 1957
Las Vegas

There was no room for retired jeweler Saul F. Binstock, 62, on the chartered flight to Las Vegas, so he boarded a Western Air Lines plane at Burbank. As always, he bought insurance naming his wife, Eva, as the beneficiary.

In addition to the round-trip flight, his getaway package included limousine service from the airport to the Hacienda Hotel, dinner, champagne and $5 in gambling chips. Although Binstock called Eva to tell her he was looking at some watch shops, he remained at McCarran Field and gave his coupon booklet to one of the agents, saying: "Maybe you can use this."

At 2:50 a.m., Binstock got on Western Air Lines Flight 39 after turning down a seat on a plane chartered by the Hacienda. Witnesses said he tore up a few pieces of paper just before boarding. As soon as the Convair CV-240 took off, Binstock went to the lavatory in the rear of the aircraft.

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1957_0725_plane_cu

Maybe he thought of his wife over the next 47 minutes. Perhaps it was his son, Sydney, a dentist; or his daughters Muriel and Joyce (or Joyann). Maybe he thought of the Canoga Park jewelry store he recently sold or the family home at 5739 Rhodes Ave. Mostly, I imagine, he thought about the explosives in his left hand--blasting caps according to the Civil Aeronautics Board and dynamite according to other sources--and how he planned to set them off.

Several passengers became worried about Binstock's extended absence and asked the flight attendant to check on him. As she walked to the back of the aircraft, there was what one passenger called: "A hell of a blast." At 3:33 a.m., Saul F. Binstock, who had spent his life repairing small, precious  mechanisms, blew a car-sized hole in the airplane, which was flying at 10,000 feet. He was the only victim.

Capt. Milton L. Shirk, 37, and co-pilot Seth Oberg, 25,  landed the plane safely at George Air Force Base after radioing that they had an emergency.

Binstock's body was found in the Ord Mountains after an intense search. Three fingers of his left hand were blown away. One of the two $62,500 insurance policies he purchased in Burbank had a suicide clause that voided any payments and the insurance company said it would not pay a benefit on any claim submitted for his death. A private investigator for the family said Binstock "was in good health and financially OK."

Rabbi Aaron Wise of the Valley Jewish Community Center conducted the funeral at Groman Mortuary Chapel. Binstock was buried in Pittsburgh.

Convair N8406H was repaired and continued flying.

Here's a photo from 1959.  And here's one from 1961.

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