Fairchild Air Force Base, WA B52 Bomber Crashes, Dec 1957
EIGHT CREWMEN DIE WHEN GIANT JET BOMBER CRASHES.
Spokane, Wash. (AP) -- A giant B52 jet bomber crashed shortly after takeoff from Fairchild Air Force Base about 15 miles west of here Thursday afternoon, sending up a mushroom-shaped cloud of smoke that could be seen for miles.
Eight crewmen were reported killed and the tail gunner, T. Sgt. GENE I. GRAYE, 25, Augusta, Kan., miraculously survived a low level ejection from the plane.
S. Sgt. Elmer E. Clark of Dallas, Tex., a member of the emergency crash crew, said that fivemen, apparently jumped from the plane, but only one survived. The other four died in the weckage, he said.
Clark said the huge mushroom cloud was caused by exploding jet fuel.
The Air Force has said that some of its bombers carry nuclear weapons on training flights but that there is no chance they could accidentally explode. Officials would not say if the B52 that crashed was carrying a nuclear weapon.
Wreckage from the 9 million dollar bomber was strewn over several hundred yards of the stubble field where it came down just off a Fairchild runway.
Clark said that after the 8-jet bomber had left the runway, its nose went up and then it tilted over on its right wing and fell to the earth. It exploded after hitting.
A state patrolman said the plane appeared on fire when headed toward the ground.
The Air Force said the plane was on a routine training flight. It took off about 4 p.m. and crashed about 4:02 p.m.
The tremendous cloud of smoke was an awesome sight. It broadened out at the top and finally began drifting away from the stem.
The Boeing built B52, a prime nuclear bomb carrier of the Strategic Air Command, replaced the B36 bomber at Fairchild earlier this year.
Clark said the tail gunner was the only crewman who was able to get his parachute open in time. He was not injured.
Col. CLARENCE A. NEELY, commander of the 92nd Bomb Wing at Fairchild, was one of the victims. Ironically, it was Col. NEELEY who flew the first B52 to Fairchild in March of this year.
Montana Standard Butte 1957-12-13
List of Casualties:
Major RALPH ROMAINE ALWORTH, age 38, Oilton, Oklahoma.
Captain DOUGLAS EARL GRAY, age 33, Guthrie, Kentucky.
First Lieutenant JAMES DENNIS MANN, age 33, Mountain View, California.
Colonel CLARENCE ARTHUR NEELY, age 42, Rockford, Illinois.
Captain THOMAS N. PEEBLES, age 33, Carson, Virginia.
Captain DOUGLAS FRANKLIN SCHWARTZ, age 37, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Captain HERBERT HENRY SPILLER, JR., age 32, Lowell, Arkansas.
First Lieutenant JACK JOSEPH VAINISI, age 26, Oakhill, Illinois.
Technical Sergeant GENE I. GRAYE, age 25, Augusta, Kansas.