Mena, AR Plane Crashes, Sep 1973
AIRLINER FEARED DOWN IN STATE.
BETWEEN EL DORADO AND TEXARKANA.
El Dorado, Ark. (AP) -- A Texas International airliner with 11 persons aboard disappeared in a torrential rainstorm over southwest Arkansas Thursday night and three National Guardsmen were killed in the crash of a helicopter en route to help search for it.
Hours passed with no trace of the Convair turboprop jet which carried eight passengers and a crew of three on a flight from El Dorado to Texarkana.
Fog and low ceilings grounded most search planes. Authorities held little hope of finding the airliner from the air if it went down in the swampy, wooded, sparsely populated area between the two cities.
A spokesman for the Red River Army Depot near Texarkana, Tex., said three of the passengers were colonels from the base. One of them was Col. ARTHUR B. GLENN who was flying in to assume command of the depot today.
Texas International did not immediately identify the other passengers or the crew.
Bob Brewer, public information officer at the depot, said Col. GLENN was traveling with Col. ROBERT E. HOPPE, the depot's director of supply, and Col. CLAYTON CRAFT, director of maintenance.
The Convair left El Dorado at 8:20 p.m. and was scheduled to reach Texarkana, 75 miles away, about 20 minutes later, Jim Cassady, senior vice president of the airline, reported it missing shortly before midnight.
By then the plane was out of fuel, according to Kenneth Senyard, Civil Defense director at Texarkana. He said it carried only enough fuel to last until 11 p.m.
Two helicopters were dispatched from Little Rock. They flew together into a fog bank near Prescott, about 100 miles from their base. One never came out.
The second helicopter turned back and made a safe landing at Malvern. State Police quoted its pilot as saying that the other ship radioed that it was in trouble just before it went down.
Lt. Earl Orr of the State Police said three bodies were recovered at the crash scene about two hours later.
The National Guard identified the crew members as:
Capt. JOHN LARRY BEARDEN, 33, of North Little Rock, the pilot.
Capt. WILLIAM ROBERT WEST, 31, of Little Rock, the co-pilot.
Spec. 6 DAVID MURLE WEBB, 32, of North Little Rock, the crew chief.
Thunderstorms were raging over Southwest Arkansas when the plane disappeared. The flight path carried the Convair over the Red River bottoms, some of the wildest country in the state. The flight, Texas International's 655, originated at Memphis. It was to have terminated at Texarkana.
State Police and county and local officers launched an immediate ground search and a few planes took off during a break in the weather shortly after midnight. All had been forced down by 4 a.m., however, and low ceilings and heavy fog kept most of them on the ground deep into the morning.
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