Mount Clemens, MI Air Force Tanker Crash, Mar 1961
5 AIRMEN KILLED AS LOADED AF TANKER DESTROYS 2 BUILDINGS.
Mount Clemens, Mich. (AP) -- A loaded Air Force tanker plane smashed in a flaming smear across a busy highway late Tuesday, destroying two buildings and narrowly missing a tavern and a tulip farm house.
The pilot had just veered his stricken ship, loaded with 9,500 gallons of fuel, away from a crowded housing project.
The pilot, LT. JOHN C. BIBBLE, 24, Urbana, Ill., and the four other airmen aboard lost their lives.
A housewife, RUTH KING, 32, said the four-engine, prop-driven KC97 from nearby Selfridge Air Force base struck "in a great big billow of flame and smoke."
The big pot-bellied ship, crashing moments after takeoff, left a wake of burning wreckage. Pieces hung from overhead power lines and clogged U.S. 25, the highway leading from nearby Detroit.
An Air Force spokesman said the ship was on a routine refueling missioin when it apparently suffered a power failure on target. The ship veered away from a Selfridge Base housing project of 380 units and staggered along at treetop level as LT. BIBBLE sought an empty place to put it down. It clipped a tree and knocked off part of its tail.
Killed with LT. BIBBLE were CAPT. LYDELL M. HAYGOOD, 29, Hawthorne, Calif., aircraft commander; T.SGT. ROBERT E. DERBY, 38, Tacoma, Wash., flight engineer; S. Sgt. ERNEST J. LEMOINE, III, 29, Houston, boom operator; and LT. ROBERT L. LEWIS, 24, Manchester, Conn., navigator.
HARRY WILSON of New Baltimore, Mich., said he was driving down nearby Sugarbush Road when the plane flew across in front of him.
"When I first saw it, it was so low that I knew it must be in trouble. Then I saw part of the tail portion had already been knocked off. It must have already hit something," WILSON said.
The plane bounced across a field in flames, stopping just across U.S. 25. It passed just in front of an auto, which drove through the flames.
"He almost got me," the driver, unidentified, told JAMES BRAZELTON, 23, as he leaned against the auto. The driver's wife remained inside, hysterical, BRAZELTON said.
Hammond Times Indiana 1961-03-01