Pope Air Force Base, NC "Green Ramp Disaster" Jet And Transport Collide, Mar 1994
FIGHTER JET, TRANSPORT PLANE COLLIDE, FIRE KILLS 15.
Pope Air Force Base, N.C. (AP) -- Five hundred Army paratroopers were preparing for a routine flight when two planes collided above, sending pandemonium and death hurtling toward them.
Fifteen people were killed and 91 injured Wednesday when two planes coming into land at the same time collided, sending one jet skidding across a runway at Army paratroopers on the ground waiting for a jump. All of the victims were on the ground.
"I saw a huge fireball rolling at us. I only had a second to try to run," Army Sgt. GREGORY COWPER, told the Fayetteville Observer-Times. "The fire caught up with me and I started rolling ... Ammunition was going off."
"I couldn't tell where it was. I looked to my left. There was a man on fire. I looked to my right, and there was a man on fire."
The F-16D fighter and the C-130 Hercules transport collided less than 300 feet above the Air Force base Wednesday afternoon. Both pilots thought they were cleared to land, said Brig. Gen. Bobby Floyd, a wing commander.
"For some unknown reason they both appeared at the same time in the same place," Floyd said. "Obviously, there was a failure to communicate."
The C-130's five-member crew landed safely despite losing a piece of the tail. The fighter pilot and a flier being trained ejected safely, but their jet crashed in flames and skidded across the runway at 180 mph.
Flying metal punctured the fuel tanks of a C-141 transport plane preparing for takeoff, destroying the plane in a blaze. All six crew members aboard the C-141 escaped injury.
The jet's flaming hulk then skidded into a staging area where about 500 Army troops from the 82nd Airborne and other units from nearby Fort Bragg preparing for jumping exercises. The C-141 was going to take the paratroopers up.
"I made about three steps and realized I wasn't going to outrun it, so I started rolling in the sand," Capt. MICHAEL TAYLOR, 35, an Army intelligence officer from Columbus, Ohio, said today. "When I hit the ground, I didn't think I was going to get up again."
"As you can imagine, it was pandemonium," Floyd said at a news briefing.
"An awful lot of individuals risked their lives to move aircraft and do things."
Fifteen people were killed and 91 injured, Fort Bragg spokesman Gene Sexton said today. The death toll was put at 16 earlier because of what Sexton said was a miscount.
Sixty-four soldiers were hospitalized, most with burns and broken bones. A medical team specializing in burn injuries was sent from Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio. Some of the injured were to be transferred to burn units as far away as Texas.
"It was mass mayhem. It was very, very horrible," said Army Sgt. LAWRENCE MALE, whose burned hands were wrapped in huge mitts of white gauze.
"I didn't know how bad I was hurt. I rolled on the ground to make sure I wasn't on fire," MALE, a paratrooper from Jackson, Mich., told The News & Observer of Raleigh.
Army Spc. Brian Powell said he saw two Humvees taking injured soldiers to Womack Army Medical Center.