Eielson AFB, AK Jet Crashes Into Base Housing, Nov 1955
DOOMED PILOT 'FOUGHT' CONTROLS
PLANE WAS SO LOW WITNESS SAW PILOT FIGHTING CONTROLS.
Passer-by Sees Jet Skimming Ground With One Wing Low; Watches Struggle Of Pilot In Last Seconds Of His Life.
The last few seconds of Lieut. ALFRED M. POUNDERS' life apparently was spent in a desperate and futile attempt to keep his plane from plunging into an Eielson air force base housing area.
The Monticello, Miss., pilot of an F-84 jet fighter plane failed and he and 12 other persons died Tuesday noon in the flaming wreckage of his plane and six mutiple-family houses on the air base. A fourteenth victim succumbed to burns yesterday.
The story of the pilot's heroic struggle came first from an unidentified air force sergeant who reported he was strolling by base headquarters when he was surprised by the jet roaring overhead, its wing dipped almost to the ground.
"I could plainly see the pilot in the cockpit," the sergeant said. "He was real busy, struggling with the controls. His was trying to avoid buildings, it looked to me."
The sergeant's report brought up the possibility that the pilot was helpless because the jet had developed a failure of its controls.
Investigators believed the pilot was making a desperate attempt to bring the jet down in an open area, because he was headed in the general direction of a cleared space and missed it only by yards.
An Eielson control tower operator described how the plane veered off to the right on a routine takeoff, narrowly missing both the tower and the main hangar.
"We were looking right down at him," A/1c VERNON BOATWRIGHT said.
An air force medic, S/Sgt. THOMAS A. BEAUCH, was heading for lunch when he spotted the crash. He ran into the 5010th USAF infirmary and alerted the ambulance crews.
Arrived At Site.
They arrived at the site moments after the plane rumbled to a stop.
A/2c ALBERT LOCKWOOD, also on duty in the control tower, had notified the fire department, and trucks were rolling seconds after the plane had begun its erratic course.
The F-84F was a visiting aircraft from a stateside base.
Officials at Ladd air force base, 20 miles away, immediately dispatched three fire trucks and air police crews to assist in the operation, while the 74th Air Rescue squadron opened up an emergency evacuation plan, headed by Lt. Col. EARL T. REICHERT, squadron commander.
Three amphibian aircraft and a helicopter were operating between Eielson and the 5001st USAF hospital at Ladd within a half hour.
Col. RAY J. WILL, Eielson base commander, who directed the entire rescue operation, said 75 men had been treated for minor exposure, two for smoke inhalation, 18 for severe cuts and bruises, and 10 for serious exposure to the cold -- 24 below zero at the time of the accident.
Volunteers from throughout the base began arriving immediately after the accident, ready to replace any of the regular fire, medical, or disaster crews on duty.
Wives Help Out.
The Officers Wives club at Ladd joined the Eielson club in wholesale donation of clothing and food, to the victims.
Base housing officials began an immediate check of the housing area to determine how many were missing, injured and dead. They also made arrangements to house the burned out families.
An appeal for housing brought a flood of calls from both Ladd and Eielson families. A base disaster committee, set up just one month ago, went to work Tuesday afternoon gathering food, clothing and basic necessities for the victims.
The committee includes Air Force Aid society, chaplains, the Red Cross, the Officers Wives club, the NCO Wives club and civilian personnel.
CHET BRUCE, Red Cross field director, said his organization had declared the tragedy a disaster area.
Officers joined in with shovels and building evacuation beside volunteer airmen and soldiers. One of the group included Brig. Gen. JOHN F. RUGGLES, commander of the Yukon command.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Alaska 1955-12-01
ANOTHER CRASH VICTIM DIES; BRUCKER VISITS.
MRS. JUANITA M. JONES, one of the injured in Tuesday's crash of a jet fighter plane into housing units at Eielson Air Force Base, died last night at Ladd Air Force Base hospital.
Her name was released by the Army's Yukon Command headquarters, along with those of other Army casualties in the tragedy.
MRS. JONES, from Eubank, Ky., leaves her husband, Sp. 2/c HARRIS A. JONES, and daughter, CONNIE G. JONES, 2, among the injured.
Army Secretary Visits.
Secretary of the Army WILBER M. BRUCKER stopped at Eielson AFB yesterday to view the crash scene. In a meeting with a group of men and women who lived in the disaster area, he said:
"I can't understand how you all got out alive. Providence must have spared you."
The secretary had requested this stop be made on his Alaskan tour so that he could see the scene and talk to the families. He also had visited the six injured persons from the disaster at the Ladd AFB Hospital.
Flies To Greely.
After the Eielson stop, BRUCKER and his party flew on to Fort Greely and to Elmendorf AFB yesterday evening. He is to go on to the Far East by way of the Aleutians on an official inspection.
Col. RAY J. WILL, commanding officer of Eielson AFB, accompanied the secretary and his party on the tour of the crash scene. Then BRUCKER was taken to the headquarters building of the 450th Anti-Aircraft Battalion to meet the families. Nine of the dead were men and dependants of the 450th.
Prior to leaving BRUCKER told the small group, "Buck up. Better days lie ahead for all of you."
Protestant memorial services were conducted in the Eielson AFB chapel at 11 o'clock this morning. Flags were lowered to half mast during the rites.
Catholic mass was to be celebrated at 4 o'clock this afternoon at the chapel for DONALD, DALE and DAVID FIMPLE, the triplet boys of Sgt. and MRS. WILLIAM J. FRIMPLE, who died in the disaster.
The Army casualty list released today follows:
M/Sgt. MARION K. ELLIS, LYNN M. ELLIS, 4; DEBRA ELLLIS, 2; CLARK ELLIS, 3. Sergeant ELLIS was from Rt. 2, Osawatomi, Kas.
SFC WELDON M. RUCKER, his wife, HAZEL E. RUCKER, and mother-in-law, MRS. EMMA B. McBRAYER. Sergeant RUCKER was from Route 2, Lorena, Tex.
BETTY J. WILLIAMS, wife, and NIALA M. WILLIAMS, 2, daughter of Sgt. CLIFFORD B. WILLIAMS. They were from 5885 Hibiscus Road, Orlando, Fla.
JUANITA M. JONES, Eubank, Tex., wife of Sp. 2/c HARRIS A. JONES.
Sp. 2/c HARRIS A. JONES and daughter, CONNIE G. JONES, 2.
The names of the FIMPLE triplets and of the jet pilot, Lt. ALFRED M. POUNDERS of Monticello, Miss., previously had been announced.
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner Alaska 1955-12-02