Columbia, SC (near) Air Force Plane Crash, Mar 1953


Columbia, March 23 (AP) -- An Air Force liasion plane fell apart in the air and plummetted into a wooded area near here today, killing the four crewmen.
Three bodies were found in the compact wreckage, while a fourth was thrown some distance away.
The plane barrelled to the ground, spiralling down almost vertically after losing a wing at low altitude. Its hitting force felled a large tree.
The Public Information Office of nearby Ft. Jackson, whose military police probed the wreckage, said the five-place L-20 plane was on a training flight from Donaldson Air Force Base at Greenville, to Shaw Field near Sumter, and return. The tragedy happened on the return flight.
Names of the victims were withheld pending notification of next of kin, but fort officials said the four were members of the Donaldson Liaison Squadron.
The plane crashed in a rain-soaked rolling wooded area 12 miles north of here a quarter of a mile east of U.S. Highway 1.
MRS. JACK PURVIS, wife of the superintendent of the nearby County Home, saw the wing of the plane fly off and up before it crashed.
RONALD COWART, 14, MRS. PURVIS' son, also saw the crash and was the first to reach the scene shortly after 6 p.m. The force of the impact opened the parachutes that the men never had a chance to use.
"It sounded and looked to me like the plane exploded about 500 feet up in the air," the COWART boy said.
"The one wing came off and the plane circled down fast. It looked to me like it was going to pieces. It hit nose down right up against a big pine."
The 18-inch pine was flattened by the impact, which cratered the earth for about 12 or 15 feet, about two or three feet deep.
The crash was on the side of a low hill.
Military police continued to go through the wreckage for several hours after the crash.

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1953-03-24