Gillsburg, MS Plane Crash Kills Lynyrd Skynyrd Band Members, Oct 1977
PLANE CRASH KILLS 3 BAND MEMBERS.
MCCOMB, Miss. (AP) -- A twin-engine airplane apparently low on fuel crashed Thursday night while attempting an emergency landing, killing three members of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and three other persons and injuring 20.
The propeller-driven Convair 240 skidded across tree tops for about 100 yards, then slammed into a swampy area and split open about eight miles short of the McComb airport after reporting it was "having fuel trouble or was running low on fuel," an air traffic controller reported.
The dead included lead singer RONNIE VAN ZANT, guitarist STEVE GAINES and vocalist CASSIE GAINES, GAINES' sister, medical authorities said.
Pilot WALTER WILEY McCREARY and co-pilot WILLIAM JOHN GRAY, both of Dallas, Tex., and DEAN KILPATRICK, assistant road manager for the group, also died, officials said.
A breakdown provided by officials listed 10 of the injured in critical condition and 10 in stable condition.
Authorities suggested that the pilot may have been trying to land the plane in one of several open fields near the trees where the crash occurred.
The chartered plane came down on its nose southwest of McComb, twisting the cockpit to the left, and threw seven or eight persons to the ground when it split open at about the middle of the fuselage, witnesses said. The impact, which triggered no fire, tossed other passengers toward the front of the aircraft.
"They were all in front of the plane and they were all shouting. 'Get me out, get me, get me," said Constable GERALD WALL. "We were actually standing on top of some people to get the others out."
JOHNNY MOTE, who lives near the crash site close to the Mississippi - Louisiana border, said the plane "sounded like a car skidding in gravel" as it clipped the trees.
"When it hit ground it was a deep rumble, like it was underground. It sounded like thin wrinkling metal," he said.
The group was en route from a Wednesday night performance in Greenville, S. C., to a Friday night concert before an expected crowd of 10,000 persons at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
The plane had passed McComb when it reported that it was having fuel trouble and was told by the Houston, Tex., flight center to turn around and land at McComb, said EVERETT FAIRLY, an air traffic controller at McComb.
"I tried to call them, but we couldn't raise them and Houston reported it had lost radar and radio contact," FAIRLY said.
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