Taken in isolation, this accident is simply the case of a crew succumbing to spatial disorientation. But there is much more to it than that. A highly experienced pilot flew his aicraft into the ocean with two other pilots watching. But there is much more to it than that.
This was another incident in a series of 13, 11 of which pointed to a problem with the Crew Resource Management culture at Pan American World Airways at the time. They were able to reverse this culture and became one of the safest airlines in the world.
There isn't much available about this crash other than the basic facts. (If you have access to more, please hit the "contact" button and let me know.) It does beg the question: how can the world's premier international airline (at the time) have pilots who would have made such a basic mistake. I think it was a part of the airline's culture: their pilots were not subject to a lot of oversight.
Everything here is from the references shown below, with a few comments in an alternate color.
I am still on the hunt for an official accident report for this; but there is enough information to hypothesize the pilots simply flew the aircraft into the ocean. Looking at the other Pan American World Airways Boeing 707 crashes from 1959 to 1974, you will see a culture of captains who had very little oversight and crews who kept quiet when the captain made a mistake. There isn't enough evidence to say that was definitively the case here, but this accident does become a data point in an overall picture. See: CRM for more about this.
[NTSB News Release] Investigated and reported by Venezuelan Govt. Possible visual illusion caused by town lights on upslope.
Gero, David, Aviation Disasters: The World's Major Civil Airliner Crashes Since 1950, The History Press, 2012, Stroud, Gloucestershire
NTSB News Release, DCA69R002, https://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/_layouts/ntsb.aviation/brief.aspx?ev_id=10023&key=0
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