Wonder Lake, IL Air National Guard Plane Crashes, Mar 1982


Wonder Lake, Ill. (UPI) -- An Air National Guard tanker carrying 24 people exploded into flaming pieces and crashed in freezing rain, fog and a flash of lightning Friday night, strewing wreckage for two miles and apparently killing all aboard, authorities said.
Rescue workers who made the difficult tramp to the swampy, wooded crash site had recovered the bodies of nine victims, but said they didn't think any of the four crew members and 20 passengers survived.
The cause of the explosion and crash was unknown -- but Lt. Col. WAYNE SWINLEY of the Illinois Air National Guard said lightning may have struck the plane before it burst into flames.
But Capt. RICHARD WIEGAND cautioned it was impossible to tell whether lightning caused the crash until a special Air Force investigation team arrived at the scene.
A witness said he saw a burst of lightning and the sky flashed yellow as the plane went down in flames.
"I opened the door and saw flames coming down and parts flying," RONALD NAVLYT said. "You couldn't believe the flame."
"The plane is scattered over a wide area," McHenry County Sheriff's Police Sgt. JIM CONNELLY said. "One of our deputies saw a major explosion. We believe it was in the air close to the ground. There were several secondary explosions."
CONNELLY said the largest piece of wreckage he saw was a 3-foot by 5-foot piece of steel.
The plane, which crashed on approach to O'Hare International Airport about 40 miles to the south, cut a swath a quarter mile wide and a mile long, CONNELLY said.
Rescue workers had difficulty reaching the crash site because of the swampy ground.
CONNELLY said the crash occurred half a mile from a residential area of Wonder Lake and near an elementary school where a science fair was in progress. No injuries of area residents were reported, he said.

The Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio 1982-03-20



Emergency crews searching on foot and horseback through muddy fields in McHenry County Saturday recovered the bodies of 26 of the 27 airmen killed when an Illinois National Guard tanker jet piloted by a Hoffman Estates man exploded in midair Friday night.
The search fot the 27th victim was set to resume at daybreak today.
Eyewitnesses said the KC-135 tanker, on its way to O'Hare International Airport during a thunderstorm, exploded in a ball of fire at approximately 9:11 p.m. near the town of Wonder Lake. The explosion showered the ground with wreckage that scattered over more than two square miles.
Some pieces of the large jet, the military version of a Boeing 707, fell between homes and a nearby school, where about 400 persons were attending a science fair. No one on the ground was injured, however.
National Guard and Air Force officials were just beginning their investigation into the cause of the crash late Saturday and no theories had yet been developed, said MAJ. KATHLEEN LESJACK. Members of rescue squads at the scene speculated the jet may have been hit by lightning, but the Federal Aviation Administration later said that was unlikely.
LT. COL. DUANE SWIMLEY of the National Guard said the last communication from the jet came about 10 minutes before the crash, and the crew indicated no danger. Unlike commercial aircraft, military craft such as the KC-135 are not equipped with "black boxes" that record flight informatiion and radio communications, LESJACK said.
The pilot of the aircraft was identified as MAJ. WILLIAM S. DIXON, 35, Hoffman Estates. Other crew members were CAPT. ROBERT NICOSIA, 33, Algonquin, nagivator CAPT. KENNETH L. HERRICK, 36, Urbana; and the boom operator, M. SGT. RICHARD CROME, 39, Wilmette. All were members of the 126th Air Refueling Wing out of O'Hare.
The passengers were air force reservists assigned to the 928th Tactical Air Lift Group who had hitched a ride back to Chicago when their own plane on its way from the state of Washington developed engine trouble and landed at K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base in northern Michigan.
One passenger, Capt. FRANK J. C. PATTON, was from Prospect Heights. The others were Senior Airman SPYRIDON AGRIOPOULOS, Chicago; Master Sgt. JAMES A. ALEXANDER, JR., Evanston; Sgt. FRANK C. BADONI, JR., Chicago; Senior Airman FRANK BARBERINI, Elmwood Park; Airman 1st Class JOE L. BRANCH, Chicago; Staff Sgt. EUGENE W. GRYGIEL, Chicago; Senior Airman HAUNANI A. HOLT, Chicago; Tech. Sgt. KENNETH J. JARECKI, Chicago; Airman 1st Class ORVAL D. JONES, Chicago; Airman CARLOS R. MELENDEZ, Chicago; Sgt. STEPHEN J. OLCZYK, Carol Stream; Airman 1st Class JOHN A. POWELL, Rockton; Sgt. AUGUSTINE J. SALINAS, Chicago; Staff Sgt. JOSE SANDOVALGARCIA, Chicago; Staff Sgt. JAMES A. VANCE III, Chicago; Staff Sgt. RONALD W. WALKER, Esmond; Airman ANITA L. WALTON, Chicago; Master Sgt. FREDERIC C. WILLHOIT, Wood Dale; Tech. Sgt. ALLEN R. WOODIN, Milledgeville; Staff Sgt. JOHN LEE WOOLRIDGE, Orland Park; Maj. RICHARD A. STARK, Wiinnetka, and Capt. RICHARD W. SUNDERMAN of St. Ann, Mo.
Emergency crews from the Wonder Lake Fire Department began the grisly chore of recovering bodies minutes after the crash. RANDY McCAFFERTY, a paramedic with the fire department, had seen the explosion in the air while driving his car.
"It looked like lightning at first, and then there was orange followed by a bright white flash," McCAFFERTY said. "It was bright for about five or six seconds, like a big flash burn. I thought it was the weirdest lightning I'd ever seen."
McCAFFERTY'S father, JACK, the chief of the Wonder Lake Fire Department, said five bodies were pulled from the cockpit section of the tanker, which landed in a broken heap just off a residential street between several houses.
"I just hope God took them before they hit the ground," he said. "The explosion must have just blown them all over. We've had bodies turn up within a two-mile radius."
The elder McCAFFERTY said the search was hampered by mud, fog and darkness, but rescue squads nevertheless combed the area through the night in search of possible survivors and the bodies of victims. When fire department vehicles became stuck in the muddy fields, search parties riding horses were formed.

Daily Herald Chicago Illinois 1982-03-21


Kc-135 Wonder Lake, Il crash

I was the last person to see the passengers and crew of this airplane alive. I was the supervisor of flying at K.I. Sawyer AFB that night and loaded them all on the jet. I knew the pilot, Bill Dixon, from having been stationed with him at Grissom AFB, IL. After completing transition training they landed and I drove Bill into base operations to update his weather info and file his flight paperwork. we loaded the crew and passengers from a C-130 that had diverted into K.I. due to a fuel leak on their airplane. They all belonged to an O'Hare AFRES unit and needed a ride home.

Major USAF Retired, KC-135 Instructor Pilot

Hi, my husband and your dad

Hi, my husband and your dad shared the same room. Please contact me through e mail . mariaolczyk@yahoo.com

Jennifer, my husband and your

Jennifer, my husband and your dad shared a room .please contact me .my email mariaolczyk@yahoo.com

Jennifer, I believe your Dad

Jennifer, I believe your Dad and my husband Steve shared the room together. I remember seeing you at the memorial with your Mom. It was extremely painful. My husband told me that your Dad was the happiest person alive. He was so happy knowing ,he was coming home to you and your Mom.So my husband was just as happy, because he often spoke of Frank. I do have some pictures of your dad, I believe I sended them to your grandma Vern.I visit the crash side often, hang a wreath at the monument and think to myself as it was only yesterday.Its Christmas time, my gift to you is ,know that your Dad died loving you,and thats my testimony to you.Please e mail me. mariaolczyk@yahoo.com

To Jennifer Badoni

Hi Jennifer, I saw this story and your posting just recently, even though it was 3 years ago. I was in the USAF from 1975 to 1979 and was stationed with your Dad at Torrejon Air Base in Spain around 1976 and 1977. Although I did not keep in touch after Spain, I knew your Dad well while I was there. He was a great guy and a very interesting person. I believe that I have a couple of photos from a camping trip to Lake Sacedon that have your Dad and Mom in them. If I can get your email address I will scan and send them to you.


rip to all those people who died ):

really sad as i live in Wonder Lake

My brother, the researcher

My brother, Matthew Marsh is a 45 year old computer engineer, but at the time of the crash we lived in Woodstock, Il and had friends who lived in Greenwood. My brother was 13 Years old when this plane crashed. Years later as my brother aged, he began to do extensive research into the cause of the crash. He coordinated (with the then McHenry County Coroner, Marleen Lance), and got access to military documents and photos in order to try and understand the cause. He did this all on his own time, just because he wanted to find answers. I'm sure you can contact him if you'd like. I basically remember him telling me about lightening combined with improper location of the plane's radio antenna and the wrong type of fuel previously being used in the plane, as combined causes of the disaster. I am so very sorry for your loss. My brother's e-mail is marsh.e.matthew@gmail.com. I'm sure he'd be happy to speak with you. He wrote a letter and later spoke to one mother who lost her young son in this crash. Sometimes just knowing others (strangers) cared about the people on this plane is comforting. That's the kind of person my brother is.
Jennifer Marsh-Caravella

your brothers passing

I was a member of the 126 Air Refueling Wing at that time of this sad event as was my brother. both of us were there for 2 weeks plus after. My heart goes out to you and all others and if I can help any of you it would be a honor and blessing. my name is Msgt. Brian s Richardson USAF?ANG retired, Dawsonville Ga. 30534.....I'm in the phone book too! Please FWD this to all connected. God Bless


Ssgt James A Vance III from chicago. He was my uncle I was almost 2 years old when this happened. I served USMC 1999-2003. Does anyone have more info on this crash?

I am very sorry for your

I am very sorry for your loss. I actually heard the explosion and saw the plane clear the clouds. I was the first one at the site becuaseI was only about a block away from were the main body of the plane came down. I tried to run in 3 times but each time there was an explosion. I was told later that it was oxygen tanks. It was a very sad time for weeks. I had bad dreams about it for weeks after. My prayers are with you.