Charleston, WV Turboprop Plane Crashes Short of Runway, Aug 1968
KANAWHA CRASH CLAIMS 32
Charleston -- Fifteen officials of the National Transportation Safety Board began their investigation late Saturday into the crash of a Piedmont turboprop plane that killed 32 of 37 persons aboard when it undershot Kanawha Airport here.
Rains throughout the day prevented the officials from making a thorough inspection of the crash site located about 50 feet right of the main runway here.
EDWARD SLATTERY, director of public affairs for the NTSB said the cockpit voice and flight recorders had been recovered from the wreckage in apparent good condition and were sent to Washington where read outs will take place Sunday.
NTSB officials also confirmed that the airport's glide slope electronic guidance system was inoperative at the time of the crash. SLATTERY said the system had been shut down for a few days "for repairs."
He said pilots had been made aware the system was not operating.
One of the victims was identified as STEPHEN WAYNE MINES, White Sulphur Springs.
Three of the five survivors, including a 23 year old girl who lost both legs, were reported in critical condition.
It was the worst aircraft disaster in West Virginia history.
The F-227 aircraft was making an instrument approach through a thick fog when it thundered into the ground bouncing and spewing metal and aircraft fuel.
Three hours after the crash 25 bodies were lined in the West Virginia Air Natinal Guard Armory at the airport. Seven other persons were pronounced dead at Charleston hospitals. The plane was bound from Louisville, Ky., to Norfolk, Va., and was scheduled to make several stops.
An eyewitness, RALPH G. STONE, 32, of Charleston, said the airliner "would have missed the runway by 50 feet if it had the altitude to land safely."
STONE, a pilot for 11 years, was waiting with a woman and three other men in a Piper Aztec on a taxi strip when the crash occurred.
"We were watching for the Piedmont to lant. All of a sudden I saw this debris -- or a glob of something -- hit the group," STONE said.
"I said 'What's that'. Then we saw it was an airplane."
STONE, and LANDON C. WELLFORD, along with two other men, ran to where the plane had landed and burst into flames.
"Some passengers, maybe as many as eight, were thrown clear of the flames," STONE said.
"There was one woman screaming for us to help her, others were just moaning. We got them away from the plane, carried some, dragged some, and by this time the Air Guardsmen were there putting out the fire.
"Without them (guardsmen) on the ball, we would have lost them all."
STONE said from where he was sitting and judging by the path of broken trees, it appeared the plane was off course.
"He (the pilot) was off to the right side of the runway but I don't know why. He apparently would have missed the runway by 50 feet or more," STONE said.
The plane, due at 8:52 a.m. EDT, crashed at 8:58 a.m. EDT. It had made a stop at Cincinnati and before reaching Norfolk was scheduled to land at Roanoke, Lynchburg, Richmond and Newport News, Va.
Landing under instrument conditions, the plane hit the hilltop edge of the runway about 50-yards short and about 10 feet too low.
The momentum carried the plane in bounces through a patch of trees and onto the runway area, tearing off a wing and spewing fuel in its path. The fire started after the plane came to a stop.
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