Gray Mountain, AZ Air Force Tanker Crash, Oct 1957


Flagstaff, Ariz. -- (IP) -- Coconino County sheriff's deputies and Air Force personnel, worked into the afternoon today to recover remains of 16 crew members aboard a giant four-engine KC97 tanker plane which crashed into Gray Mountain 40 miles north of here yesterday.
The sheriff's office released a report this morning attributed to the Air Force that the remains of the 16 crew members aboard had been recovered. But Luke Air Force Base, in charge of search operations, said that because of communications difficulties, it had been unable to confirm the report.
Remains were reported scattered over a wide area. Eight bodies were recovered yesterday. The remains today included smaller pieces of bodies and identification experts were working to establish definitely that they were those of all 16 men.
The big plane, from Walker Air Force Base, Roswell, N.M., crashed yesterday morning apparently while flying at a low altitude. The mountain actually is a butte of about 1,200 feet, on a plateau.
The plane crashed about half-way up the side of the mountain, possibly during an unusually heavy morning fog. The wreckage was not sighted until yesterday afternoon.
The sheriff's office here said remains of the other eight crew members presumably would be returned today. Two Air Force helicopters were sent to the scene by Luke Air Force Base this morning to aid in recovery efforts. Indian police from nearby Tuba City were the first to reach the scene yesterday afternoon, after wreckage had been confirmed from the air.
The crash scene, 20 miles from the nearest paved highway, is about 50 miles from where two giant airliners collided in the air and plunged into the Grand Canyon, killing 128 persons, on June 30, 1956. However, the terrain is entirely different, with a vast "flat" area in which only such buttes as Gray Mountain jut into the sky.
The $1.5 million plane, used to refuel jet aircraft at high altitudes, left Roswell early yesterday on a "routine training flight."
Sheriff CECIL RICHARDSON of Coconino County returned to the scene today. He reported wreckage over a widely scattered area, with only the tail section distinguishable.
RICHARDSON said the first report of the crash came from a Navajo Indian woman, Alberta Big Singer, who was on horseback a short distance from Gray Mountain. The sheriff said the woman told him, "I heard big noise and saw dust and dirt boil up."
The cause of the crash remained a mystery and was under investigation by the Air Force. The weather bureau said the plane might have tried to fly under a fog bank as heavy patches of fog were reported in the area early yesterday.
Names of the dead have not yet been released by the Air Force.

Tucson Daily Citizen Arizona 1957-10-30


Walker AFB, N.M. officials listed the following men killed in the crash:
Capt. HAROLD D. SHUMARD, 32, aircraft commander, Shawnee, Okla.
1st Lt. CHARLES D. DEES, 26, co-pilot, Chatbourn, N.C.
1st Lt. DONNIE G. CASTER, 24, instructor - navigator, Oklahoma City.
Tech. Sgt. RICHARD W. NOEL, 32, flight engineer, Norfolk, Va.
S. Sgt. JAMES E. HICKS, 27, radio operator, Abilene, Tex.
Tech. Sgt. RONALD E. RUBLE, 30, boom operator, Roanoke, Ill.
Maj. DAVID A. WHITMORE, 40, pilot, Lake Placid, Fla.
Maj. JOHN G. SCHARDONG, 36, navigator, Bridgeville, Pa.
Maj. DAVID C. MILLS, 39, pilot, Baytown, Texas.
1st Lt. RICHARD D. TAYLOR, 26, navigator, West Palm Beach, Fla.
S. Sgt. SHERMAN E. WOODS, 25, flight engineer, Newport, Tenn.
Maj. IRVING L. OLSTEIN, 38, navigator, Glen Rock, N.J.
Lt. Col. MILTON D. POOLE, 35, navigator, Guy, Ark.
Maj. WILBUR K. ABNEY, 32, pilot, Longview, Tex.
Capt. DAVID G. MORRIS, 29, navigator, Evanston, Ill.
Capt. ROBERT R. FERGUSON, 34, pilot, Austin, Tex.

Tucson Daily Citizen Arizona 1957-10-31