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Bull Mountain, VA Bomber Crash, Mar 1944

Bull Mountain VA Bomber crash 1.jpg Bull Mountain VA bomber crash 2.jpg Memorial of Crash.jpg

The officer said that it was difficult to reach the scene and estimated the distance four miles from the nearest road necessitating a job of hacking a way through mountain ivy and laurel and across fallen tree trunks.
Commonwealth's Attorney Frank P. Burton reported here late this morning that it was possible that the plane was from Wheeling, West Va. He said he had been informed that an Army plane with eleven men from Wheeling was reported missing today.
Burton who was among the first to reach the scene of the crash and who said "it was one of the worst things I ever set eyes on" added he could account only for eleven bodies.
The state official who was tired and worn after a five mile walk said that the terrific impact of the plane had carved a path three hundred yards up the face of the mountain, felling some trees while the stouter timber raked the plane and tore it all to pieces.
Only the backbone of one of the occupants could be discerned, the rest of the body being burned. The other bodies were more or less mutilated -- one decapitated -- but he saw no reason why the identification discs should not be found on the bodies.
One of the victims is evidently from South Carolina, judging from some object found which bore his name. Another man's name was BROWN, he said.
The plane flew so low over Stuart, Burton said, that it seemed to be only a few feet over the roof of his own house. The landing lights were on. Later over Patrick County the plane dropped two flares one green and one red, this just before the plane crashed.
Burton's opinion was that the plane became lost and was running out of fuel when it was decided to make a forced landing, the pilot evidently not knowing that he was over rugged country.
J. W. Frances, Patrick County game warden, living at Stuart was among the first group to reach the scene of the wreck.
He said that the bomber had almost cleared the broad back of the Bull Mountain massif and on striking the side of the mountain tore its way upward and down the other side. The debris was scattered over about 300 yards of virgin timber, and the plane was reduced to small fragments.
The bodies, lay in different postures for about 150 yards. All of the bodies, he said, were blackened by the searing blast of flames from the gasoline tanks which had apparently exploded on impact.
One body had a dog tag on it bearing the name
"BROWN" but the dog tags on the other bodies had all been burned off.
The crash was about three miles from the nearest road and about five miles from Stuart. The point of impact was also about five miles from Patrick Springs Hotel, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Hamilton.
To reach the scene the first rescue squad had to cut its way through primeval timber. "It was tough going," the game warden said but easy to find because the explosion had caused a forest fire which was still burning this morning.
Stuart people knew that a plane was in trouble because it circled over the town at a low level. It had a search light in its nose and it seemed to be trying to pick a flat place where it might land.
The motors sounded as though they were not functioning properly, Frances said, causing many people to leave their homes. While the explosion was not heard here there was a great flare of light as the plane struck and it was generally conceded that the big plane had crashed on the mountain.
It was not long before the rural telephones were ringing. People closer to the scene said that they could see the burning plane and asked that Army authorities in Greensboro, N.C., and Winston-Salem, N.C. be notified. In the meantime Frank Burton, commonwealth's attorney and Sheriff Frank Mays, organized a relief squad and they set off up the Tudor Orchard road as far as it went, and then followed a mountain creek bed until they reached a point where they had to leave it and strike off through dense brush and timber. Frances placed the time of the crash at 10 p.m.
Fred Williams, a merchant at Patrick Springs about three miles from Patrick Springs Hotel witnessed the whole tragedy.
"I had gone to sleep when I was awakened by the roar of airplane motors. The plane seemed to be almost on the roof. I ran outside at once and hear the plane circling over Patrick Springs Hotel. The motors seemed to be working all right but made a curious sort of noise."

Continued on Page 3.

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