Sugarloaf Mountain, NC Two Helicopter Crash, Mar 1977


Columbus, N.C. (UPI) - Two Marine Corps helicopters flying in close formation slammed into fog-shrouded Sugarloaf Mountain Friday, killing five men and injuring three others.
The names of those on board the two CH53 cargo helicopters were not released pending notification of relatives. The three injured were taken to St. Luke's Hospital in Columbus, where they were in satisfactory condition.
Jack Lawter, a witness, said the two helicopters were flying in close formation when they plowed into the 2,300-foot mountain, covered with fog during a drizzling rain.
"I could almost talk to them," said Lawter, who was standing in a garage about a mile from the scene.
"I felt like hollering and telling
'em he's going to hit that mountain."
"I turned and walked across the garage and said he's going to hit that mountain," said Lawter, 42, of Mill Springs.
"It was not over three minutes before I heard the first one hit. We just heard a boom. Then I heard a motor rev up like the second one was trying to get out of it or something. And then I heard him hit."
After the second helicopter hit the mountain, Lawter said, "we heard a whole lot of noise, trees falling and everything."
The aircraft were assigned to the 2nd Aircraft Wing at the New River Marine Air Station near Havelock, N.C. They were on a routine training flight from their home base to Knoxville, Tenn.
It took rescue workers nearly two hours to push through the rugged terrain to reach the wreckage of the first helicopter. The second aircraft was found about 30 minutes later.
The crash site was about three miles from the road up the side of the mountain, about 15 miles northwest of Columbus. The two helicopters were within one-half mile of each other in an unpopulated area.
The rescuers had to scale a sheer rock cliff to make it to the site of one of the helicopters.
A spokesman at the New River Air Station said the helicopters were on an instrument flight plan and had stopped in Charlotte, about 75 miles to the east, to refuel.
The aircraft normally carry a crew of four - a pilot, a copilot, a crew chief and a loadmaster.

Freeport Journal-Standard Illinois 1977-03-12

Transcriber's Note.
Following are lists of the fatalities and injured.
The dead were:
Capt. LARRY BURRO, 30, Salem, Ill.
Lt. RANDALL BURNS, 28, Ogden, Utah.
Cpl. JOHN NORTHCUTT, 20, Lubbock, Tex.
Pfc. LUCIEN LaRUE, 19, Arlington Heights, Ill.
Sgt. CHARLES MORRISON, 21, Milton, W.Va.
The survivors were:
Lt. KENNETH WAYNE SMILEY, 27, Duncanville, Tex.
Lt. JOHN SITTON, II, 26, Fairbanks, Alaska.
Sgt. BOYD J. FARRINGTON, 26, Salisbury, Md.
All were reported in satisfactory condition Sunday at St. Luke's Hospital at Tryon.