A little more than 2 years after the Boeing 707 was introduced for commercial air travel, on 15 February 1961, a 707 jet that took off from New York City crashed while trying to make a landing in Brussels, Belgium, killing all 72 people on board, including the entire US Figure Skating Team who were traveling to the World Figure Skating Championship. Coaches, skating officials, and family members were also killed in the crash (a farmer working in the field near the airport was killed by flying debris).
16-year-old Laurence Owen, who had won the US Figure Skating Championship at the end of January, had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 2 days before the crash. Her older sister Maribel (who also received gold at the US Figure Skating Championship) and mother (9-time US champion) were all on board the flight.
The World Championships were canceled, and the disaster prompted U.S. Figure Skating executives instated a policy that no team traveling to international competition would ever be allowed to fly together again.
The U.S. had won the men’s gold medal at every Olympics since 1948 (when Dick Button became the first American man to do so), while U.S. women had earned gold in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. After the crash, an American woman would not win Olympic gold until Peggy Fleming in 1968, and the US Men’s team would not win gold until Scott Hamilton in 1984.