Alpena, MI Military Air Tanker Crashes, Sep 1976

PLANE CRASH KILLS 15.

5 SURVIVE CRASH IN AIR TANKER.

AIR FORCE OFFICIALS UNABLE TO DETERMINE CAUSE OF ACCIDENT.

Alpena (UPI) -- Four survivors in the crash of an Air Force KC-135 tanker that killed 15 others were moved to an Army medical center in Texas today while the fifth survivor was released from a local hospital to join the crash investigating team.
The Air Force said the four were in serious but stable condition at the Brooke Army Medical Center burns unit in San Antonio.
They were Capt. JOHN HARRISON, 33, Ravenswood, W. Va.; Capt. CLIFFORD CALL, Seattle, Wash.; 1st Lt. DWAIN E. CRANE, 26, Pine Bluff, Ark.; and Capt. FREDERICK ANDERSON, 32, Upper Saddle River, N. J.
Airman DALE J. SOLON of Lakewood, Ohio, escaped serious injury in the crash and explosion Sunday of the giant tanker. He was released today from Alpena General Hospital, and the Air Force assigned him to the team investigating the disaster.
Air Force officials said they may not know for months what caused the tanker on a routine training mission to crash.
The military equivalent to a Boeing 707 was enroute from K. I. Sawyer Air Force base, located near the Upper Peninisula town of Marquette, to Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska when it crashed about 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday into a densely wooded swampy area.
The violent crash which pulverized the plane into hundreds of pieces ranging from inches to ten feet in length.
The plane's body carved a 100-foot long gouge in the ground. Wreckage was strewn along a 50-yard wide path for more than half a mile.
The only known witness to the crash, ELMER LISKE, 48, a Hubbard Lake farmer, said he saw the plane flying low over the treetops while he was walking across his front yard about 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.
"It suddenly started to go down," LISKE said. "It blew up, and I saw a big ball of fire, and then it exploded several more times."
An Air Force team of investigators spent all day Sunday sifting through wreckage and another team of probers was due to arrive Monday from Strategic Air command headquarters in Nebraska.
"They will sift through every part of that plane until they find out why the aircraft did not stay in the air," one Air Force information officer said.
The spokesman said it will take at least a week and possibly several months to determine the cause of the crash.
The 15 men killed in the crash were identified as: Major REDERICK WRINKLE; Major DANIEL H. CRAVEN; Capt. CHARLES R. ADAM; Capt. RICHARD G. DANKEY; Capt. OSCAR W. DUGAN; Capt. WILLIAM H. WARREN, JR.; Capt. JERRY B. RICHARDSON; Capt. VAN P. COOK; Capt. RICHARD N. SMITHWICK; Capt. DAVID A. PHELPS; Capt. JACK A. KUZANED; Lt. RONALD P. ROACH; Lt. ROBERT S. WITT; Tech. Sgt. GARY L. CARLSON; and Sgt. JAMES M. SINGLETON.
All the men except for Lt. WITT and Capt. ADAM, who were from Kinchelce air base, were attached to the Sawyer air base.

The Holland Evening Sentinel Michigan 1976-09-27

Comments

36 Years Ago

My father was on that plane, in the jump seat, as a last-minute passenger. My mother and I were in MT where she was helping me start college in Missoula. My sister, 10 at the time, and my brother, just barely 16, were staying with family friends. It was a desperately sad time and to this day, I do not know how my mother coped with it all. But we all have thrived since then and though we remember our dad, we have not defined our lives by this tragedy.

Victim name fixes and addl info

The Abilene Reporter News found space in their article for hometowns of the 15 victims, but also had some typos on the names. By cross-checking other sources (like 46th ARS tripod, Citadel Alumni & Grave markers) here is what I think is a list that may help any friend or relative find this story:

Major Frederick R. Wrinkle (pilot) - Lebanon, MO
1st Lt Ronald P. Roach (copilot) - Chicago & Da Valls Bluff, AR
Capt. Richard G. Dankey (navigator) - Woonsocket, SD
TSgt Gary L. Carlson (boom operator) - Tucson, AZ
Capt Oscar W. Duggan (extra pilot) - Lexington, SC
Capt. David A. Phelps (passenger) - Hinsdale, NY
Capt. Jack A. Kuzanek (passenger) - Dolton, IL
Major Daniel R. Craven (passenger) - Hueneme, CA
Capt. Charles R. Adams (passenger) - Springfield, MO
Capt William H. Warren Jr. (passenger) - Ft. Worth, TX
Capt. Jerry B. Richardson (passenger) - Marion, NY
Capt. Van Thomas Cook (passenger) - Orlando, FL
Capt. Richard N. Smithwick (passenger) - De Pere, WI
Lt. Robert S. Witt (passenger) - Rochester, NY
Sgt. James M. Singleton (passenger) - Oklahoma City, OK

61-0296 K.I. Sawyer AFB Sept. 1976

For so many years I've looked back on that cold dark morning I helped Jim Singleton preflight 296 for it's departure. I knew Jim fairly well even though we didn't work together as crew chiefs. Jim was a very proud crew chief and even more so he was extremely proud that he was from Texas. I worked in the same hangar as Jim but as an Aircrft inspector in the Phase dock. It was my turn for weekend duty that weekend and with that you did what ever was needed to launch and work any delayed maintenance on the jets that were to fly at the beginning of the week.
It wasn't as I recall very busy that morning but Jim needed extra help getting things looked at and up to speed prior to the Crew show. I remember we changed several exterior light bulbs and serviced a couple of accumulators. Busy but not overwhelming. The last words Jim and I shared together will allways stay with me for the rest of my life. " Thanks for your help Randy, when I get back I'll buy you a beer! which I replied you have a deal"

It wasn't untill later that day that I had heard that we had lost one of our tankers, not knowing who was safe, lost or injured untill monday when we had a squadron assembly. The news was hard to believe and allot of us had to walk away from the group to cope in our own way. I'll allways remember Jim as a good natured man, with a strong belief in what he was doing for his country. I hope to some day meet his family to let them know that Jim has stayed in my thoughts all these years, that he hasn't been forgotten.

KC135 crash

If I am not mistaken this aircraft stopped over at Kincheloe AFB. I was the flight line duty Sgt. The flight crew requested a crew chief to assist with the vip passengers. The flight line dispatch suggested that I get on board to help with the passengers. I was ready to go, my only reluctance was that I had no way of contacting my wife and I had our only vehicle,we lived about 12 miles off base. As my feet touched the ladder to board the aircraft the co-pilot informed me that an Airmen on board was crew chief qualified and that he would assume the duties. I was still wanting to go but I knew it would be a big inconvience to my wife, had no ideal how long I would be gone. I was still on the ladder co-pilot said you can still come or you can stay it's up to you. I went down, I stayed. I button the hatch and marshaled them out to the taxiway. I remember regretting that I had drove to work as I waved to them as they took off. About an hour later as I drove home the news came across my car radio, my legs went numb I was weeping and sobbing like a baby I had to pull over on a snow filled road to compose myself. Apparently I got out of the car histerically trying to go where I don't know. The State Trooper found me crawling in the snow. They assumed that I was drunk was about to take me to jail until they heard my story, they took me home instead. The only news I ever received was there was one surviver, the Airmen that took my place... I'll never forget it!