Hardinsburg, KY Air Force Planes Collide, Oct 1959
FORMER RESIDENT MISSING AFTER AIR COLLISION.
LT. HELMICK WAS TANKER NAVIGATOR.
FOUR ARE KNOWN DEAD, THREE OTHERS MISSING.
First Lieutenant HAROLD E. HELMICK, 25, formerly of Route 5, Morgantown, was listed among the missing following an air collision over Hardinsburg, Ky., last night.
A nuclear-armed B52 bomber and its refueling tanker crashed in a fiery blast which lit up the sky for over a 150-mile area.
At least four were killed, four were saved and four, including Lt. HELMICH were missing. Those who were saved suffered only minor injuries after they parachuted to the ground.
Lt. HELMICK is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall J. Helmick who formerly lived on the Fairmont Road. He graduated from Morgantown High School in 1951 and attended the University for two years before joining the Air Force.
He was a navigator on the KC-125 tanker.
"It looked like the whole world -- the whole sky -- was on fire," said one witness, Eliza Robertson.
The Air Force would not say what type nuclear weapon the B52 carried. It said there was no danger of an explosion.
The eight-jet Strategic Air Command bomber, based at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss., carried a crew of eight, The four-jet KC135 tanker from the base had four men aboard. They were on a routine flight.
Columbus Air Force Base said among the known dead is S. Sgt. PAUL E. THOMASSON, 27, boom operator on the KC135. His wife is Mary E. Thomasson
(143 Hamilton Ave.), Columbus AFB.
It listed the survivors, all from the B52, as: Capt. WILLIAM G. GUTSHALL, 36, aircraft commander, Aberdeen, Miss.; Capt. JAMES W. STROTHER, 40, radar operator, Columbus AFB; Lt. GINO FUGAZZI, 24, electronic warfare officer, New York City; and Maj. MILTON E. CHATHAM, 38, instructor pilot, Columbus AFB.
The B52 came down in pieces on a farm about 12 miles south of here and three miles north of where the tanker crashed on another farm.
The B52, its wreckage scattered over a wide area, was still blazing four hours after it crashed.
One of the rescuers, Dr. John A. Kinchelow, said two men who parachuted from the B52 told him the first they knew of the collision was when "everything suddenly lighted up" in flames.
"I don't think any of them got out of the little plane (the tanker)," he said.
Strategic Air Command headquarters at Omaha, Neb., which issued the statement on the nuclear weapon, said the accident was the first of its kind since SAC began its round-the-clock air refueling program nine years ago.
Morgantown Post West Virginia 1959-10-16