Valley, NE Air Wisconsin Plane Crash, Jun 1980


Valley, Neb. (UPI) - A twin-engine Air Wisconsin airplane with 15 people aboard crashed in a farm field Thursday during a heavy thunderstorm, killing 12 people and seriously injuring three others.
The turboprop plane, Flight 965, was en route from Minneapolis to Lincoln, Neb. Rescuers worked in ankle-deep mud and standing water to get to the plane, which went down about 3 miles north of Valley, a small community 10 miles west of Omaha.
Air Wisconsin President Preston Wilbourne in Appleton, Wis., said the Metroliner SW-4 twin-engine craft carried 13 passengers and two pilots.
The Douglas County sheriff's office said 11 people were dead at the scene. Most of the bodies were found in the fuselage, which was in one piece.
A 12th victim, a man, died of multiple injuries at Immanuel Medical Center in Omaha. The victims' names were not immediately released.
Officials said another man was in fair condition at Immanuel with a dislocated hip and facial lacerations, and a man and a woman were flown by helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital in Omaha.
St. Joseph's spokesman Mike Wadum said the woman was in critical condition and the man's condition was serious.
Tim Snow, deputy chief of the Federal Aviation Administration's Omaha Radar Approach Control, said the plane went off radar screens at 3:45 p.m. CDT during a heavy thunderstorm.
The plane reportedly had been flying at an altitude of 6,000 feet just before the crash. Thunderstorms reportedly accompanied by winds of about 80 mph, heavy rain, and hail buffeted the area at the time of the accident. St. Joseph Hospital Life Flight helicopter and mobile intensive care units arrived on the scene about 4:20 p.m.
Air Wisconsin, a regional air carrier founded in 1965 that serves 14 cities in nine states, transported just under 500,000 passengers in 1979, according to Bill Geenen, vice president and treasurer of the Appleton, Wisconsin based airline.
Snow said officials did not know what caused the accident, and said indications were the flight was normal until the crash. He said the Omaha controllers had contact with the plane but were not sure what the pilot said before the crash.
"We had some transmissions, but we haven't been able to understand what he said," Snow said.
He said the contents will have to be determined after tapes are recovered from the wreckage.
Rescuers slogged through standing water and mud to get to the wreckage. They used hydraulic prying tools to free the victims, and helicopters were being used to transport the injured to Omaha hospitals, authorities said.

The Galveston Daily News Texas 1980-06-13