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Fatal Crossing

Date, Location

    Solving the Mystery of NWA Flight 2501

    Valerie van Heest, director of the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates and award-winning author, will share discoveries from Fatal Crossing, her new book about the 1950 crash of NWA flight 2501 into Lake Michigan.

    The story of the country’s worst aviation disaster at the time has never been told. It became the fodder for strange tales and UFO abductions. With the release of Fatal Crossing, the whole story has emerged: As a furious squall swept down Lake Michigan on June 23, 1950, a DC-4 with 58 souls on board flew from New York toward Minnesota. Minutes after midnight Captain Robert Lind requested a lower altitude as he began crossing the lake, but Air Traffic Control could not comply. That was the last communication with Northwest Airlines Flight 2501. 

    The crash of Northwest Flight 2501 into Lake Michigan marked the worst American aviation accident at the time when all 58 people aboard lost their lives. The wreckage could not be found by authorities, the cause of the crash could not be determined, and the accident was soon forgotten. A half century later, a dedicated team of explorers renewed the search with the hope of finding the wreckage and solving the mystery of its loss.

    Valerie van Heest

    Award winning author and inductee into the Women Divers Hall of Fame, Valerie is a veteran shipwreck explorer who combines her passion for documenting historic shipwrecks with her creative abilities to preserve and promote Great Lakes maritime history. Her mission is to share the stories with adults and children through lectures, museum exhibits, articles, and books in ways to educate, entertain and inspire. She is the recipient of multiple awards for her books, exhibits, films, as well as her volunteer work promoting Michigan’s maritime history.


    Valerie has written extensively for a variety of magazines and has won a State History Award for her first young reader's book, ICEBOUND! The Adventures of Young George Sheldon and the SS Michigan. She is co-author with William Lafferty of the newly released book, Buckets and Belt, also winner of a State History Award. In addition she has written and directed more than a dozen documentary films and has appeared on major television news networks as well as the Discovery Channel. She is a regular presenter at museums, libraries, and film festivals sharing  the dramatic stories of ships gone missing on the Great Lakes. Her work has been featured in the book, Voices of the Sweetwater Seas by Bill Keefe and Shipwreck Hunter by Gerry Volgenau. 

    Valerie spearheads MSRA's search for ships lost off Western Michigan which has resulted in the discovery of thirteen new shipwrecks. Valerie is a partner of Lafferty van Heest & Associates, an exhibit design firm and serves in a volunteer capacity as a director of the non-profit Michigan Shipwreck.