s freezing rain and dense fog envelopedthe Upper Connecticut River Valley onthe morning of December 24, 1996, aLearjet ﬂown by two Connecticut-based pilots re-quested clearance to land at the Lebanon, N.H.,Airport. Partway into their instrument approachthrough the storm, the pilots aborted the landingand regained altitude for a second try. Moments lat-er, the Learjet disappeared from the control tower’sradar screens.The ensuing air and ground search involvedhundreds of volunteers, including several Dart-mouth medical student members of the Upper Val-ley Wilderness Response Team. More than a dozenArmy helicopters were committed to the effort.Scuba divers scoured the depths of several lakes.Debate raged over how far the plane might havetraveled before it crashed. When all reasonablehope of the pilots’ survival was gone, and addition-al snow accumulation made it unlikely that thesleek jet would be discovered before the springthaw, the official search was suspended. Still, scat-tered groups of volunteers and members of the pi-lots’ families continued to search the region’s heav-ily wooded hillsides for many months afterward.
ne reason so many Upper Valley resi-dents refused to abandon the search forthe two young pilots from Connecticutwas the still-vivid memory of an equally puzzlingairplane crash in 1959. That crash devastated thethen-small Dartmouth Medical School communi-ty, for its pilot and passenger were both members of the DMS faculty.Ralph Miller, M.D., was chair of pathology, di-rector of the laboratories at Mary HitchcockMemorial Hospital, and a senior consultant inpathology for the Veterans Administration Hospi-tal in White River Junction, Vt. A graduate of bothDartmouth College and the Medical School, he’dbeen on the faculty at DMS since 1931, after com-pleting his M.D. at Harvard, a year of internship atMary Hitchcock, and a fellowship in pathology atthe Mayo Foundation. In 1959, at 60 years of age,he was at the peak of his career.When he wasn’t teaching medical students orperforming autopsies, Miller was doing something
In 1959, twomembers of theDartmouth MedicalSchool faculty setout in a small planeon a medicalmission to northernNew Hampshire.They neverreturned. Fourdecades later,the impact oftheir death in theNorth Country’sunforgiving forestsstill resonatesthrough Dartmouthand the region’swilderness rescuecommunity.
John Morton was head coach of men’s skiing at Dartmouth Col-lege from 1978 to 1989. He now designs trails for cross-countryrunning and skiing and writes about the outdoors from his homein Thetford, Vt. He is also a six-time member as a competitor,coach, or team leader of the U.S. Olympic biathlon team. This isnot the ﬁrst time Morton has written about harrowing cold-weath-er exploits for
; his “Drama on Denali”was the cover feature in the Winter 1999 issue. Among the sourcesMorton found especially helpful in researching this story was anarticle titled “The Missing Doctors” by Floyd W. Ramsey, pub-lished in the Winter 1986 issue of
By John Morton
“Life is either a daring adventureor nothing at all.” —Helen Keller