Entire U.S. Figure Skating Team Killed in 1961 Plane Crash

By Karen Harris
Family picture of the US figure skating team before boarding the Sabena Flight 548 on February 15, 1961 in New York that crashed near Brussels, Belgium. (STF/AFP via Getty Images)

In 1961, 18 members of the U.S. figure skating team, encompassing the nation's top figure skating talent, all died when their plane crashed en route to the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague. It was a world-shattering event in the sports universe, and figure skating in the United States was never the same.

We Are The Champions

The 1961 World Figure Skating Championships were held in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and naturally, the United States wanted to send its national team to show off its talented skaters to the rest of the world. It included 16-year-old Laurence Owen, who had just won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated; her 20-year-old sister, Maribel, a U.S. National Pairs Champion; their mother and coach, an Olympic bronze medalist; and Maribel's pairs partner, Dudley Richards. In addition to the Owen clan, Olympic medalists Gregory Kelley, Steffi Westerfeld, and Rhode Lee Michelson and champions Bradley Lord, Dee Dee Sherbloom, and Larry Pierce were also on board the flight to Prague.