Russellville AR Airliner Crash At Airport, Jun 1999
ARKANSAS CRASH KILLS SIX MEMBERS OF TOUR GROUP.
TRAGEDY: THE GROUP OF 12 WAS RETURNING FROM A TRIP TO EUROPE, BUT ONLY SIX SURVIVED.
The Associated Press.
Russellville, Ark. - In a postcard to her co-workers JUDY THACKER gushed about how her tour group stayed in a real Welsh castle and watched peacocks strut majestically around the grounds.
"Wales is more spectacular than I ever imagined & tomorrow we head for Scotland," she wrote in a rolling, joyful script. She added: "I may see you before this arrives!"
The card arrived Tuesday, just a few hours before THACKER and five other members of her 12-person group of widows and older couples died in the crash of an American Airlines jet at the Little Rock Airport.
"The last sentence is what gets you," said James Biggers, president of the River Valley Bank, where THACKER was a vice president in charge of consumer lending. He had known her for 15 years.
Officials did not release the names of the nine people killed in the crash of American Flight 1420. But friends and relatives of the tour group members said six of the victims were in the group.
Five of them - JUDY THACKER, 53; BETTY INGRAM, 69; SUE GRAY, 88; and GORDON and LINDA McLERRAN, 64 and 65 - were from Russellville, a town of 25,000 in the shadow of the Ozark Mountains, along the banks of the Arkansas River. The sixth member, MARY COUCH, 68, was from nearby Havana.
They were part of a group that traveled to Italy last year and were already planning a cruise to Alaska next year.
CAPT. RICHARD BUSCHMANN, 48, pilot, of Naperville, Illlinois; and two other passengers, JAMES HARRISON, 21, of Paragould; and DEBRA SATTARI, 38, of Concord, Calif. also died in the crash.
One of the group's survivors, real estate developer Arnold Bowden, 63, talked about his friends Thursday in a voice still deep and slightly hoarse from inhaling the smoke that filled the burning plane. His left arm was still crooked from a blow that knocked the watch off his wrist.
"We really were decimated in our travel group," Bowden said from his Cliffside home overlooking the town.
"We lost my best friend and fishing buddy."
And the town lost some of its most active citizens.
GORDON McLERRAN, a retired state chemist from Corpus Christi, Texas, who moved to Russellville in 1986, was president of the local arts council and past president of the Kiwanis Club. He and his wife, an avid potter who was proud of her Tex-Mex cooking, were researching their Scottish roots during the two-week tour of Britain.
"He had a tremendous sense of humor, had no fewer than 150 Aggie jokes," Bowden said. "A true Texan - outgoing and loudspoken."
INGRAM, a retired college secretary, was divorced and had no children. Ellis Hottinger, director of Shinn Funeral Home, said INGRAM lived for her nephews and nieces, her books - and those tours.
The Montgomery Advertiser Alabama 1999-06-04