Alpena, MI Military Air Tanker Crashes, Sep 1976

PLANE CRASH KILLS 15.

5 SURVIVE CRASH IN AIR TANKER.

AIR FORCE OFFICIALS UNABLE TO DETERMINE CAUSE OF ACCIDENT.

Alpena (UPI) -- Four survivors in the crash of an Air Force KC-135 tanker that killed 15 others were moved to an Army medical center in Texas today while the fifth survivor was released from a local hospital to join the crash investigating team.
The Air Force said the four were in serious but stable condition at the Brooke Army Medical Center burns unit in San Antonio.
They were Capt. JOHN HARRISON, 33, Ravenswood, W. Va.; Capt. CLIFFORD CALL, Seattle, Wash.; 1st Lt. DWAIN E. CRANE, 26, Pine Bluff, Ark.; and Capt. FREDERICK ANDERSON, 32, Upper Saddle River, N. J.
Airman DALE J. SOLON of Lakewood, Ohio, escaped serious injury in the crash and explosion Sunday of the giant tanker. He was released today from Alpena General Hospital, and the Air Force assigned him to the team investigating the disaster.
Air Force officials said they may not know for months what caused the tanker on a routine training mission to crash.
The military equivalent to a Boeing 707 was enroute from K. I. Sawyer Air Force base, located near the Upper Peninisula town of Marquette, to Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska when it crashed about 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday into a densely wooded swampy area.
The violent crash which pulverized the plane into hundreds of pieces ranging from inches to ten feet in length.
The plane's body carved a 100-foot long gouge in the ground. Wreckage was strewn along a 50-yard wide path for more than half a mile.
The only known witness to the crash, ELMER LISKE, 48, a Hubbard Lake farmer, said he saw the plane flying low over the treetops while he was walking across his front yard about 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday.
"It suddenly started to go down," LISKE said. "It blew up, and I saw a big ball of fire, and then it exploded several more times."
An Air Force team of investigators spent all day Sunday sifting through wreckage and another team of probers was due to arrive Monday from Strategic Air command headquarters in Nebraska.
"They will sift through every part of that plane until they find out why the aircraft did not stay in the air," one Air Force information officer said.
The spokesman said it will take at least a week and possibly several months to determine the cause of the crash.
The 15 men killed in the crash were identified as: Major REDERICK WRINKLE; Major DANIEL H. CRAVEN; Capt. CHARLES R. ADAM; Capt. RICHARD G. DANKEY; Capt. OSCAR W. DUGAN; Capt. WILLIAM H. WARREN, JR.; Capt. JERRY B. RICHARDSON; Capt. VAN P. COOK; Capt. RICHARD N. SMITHWICK; Capt. DAVID A. PHELPS; Capt. JACK A. KUZANED; Lt. RONALD P. ROACH; Lt. ROBERT S. WITT; Tech. Sgt. GARY L. CARLSON; and Sgt. JAMES M. SINGLETON.
All the men except for Lt. WITT and Capt. ADAM, who were from Kinchelce air base, were attached to the Sawyer air base.

The Holland Evening Sentinel Michigan 1976-09-27

Comments

We Remember -

Hello,

On the 39th anniversary - we remember... To all involved in that fateful day - may God bless us - everyone...

To those lost - we pray for you... To those left behind - we pray with you... To those who arrived at the scene to help - Al, Daryl, the entire Hubbard Lake rescue team - there are no words - how could we ever thank you enough... To those who created and care for the memorial site - we are forever grateful...

We honor and remember each and every one of you today - and always...

~Paula Anne (Smithwick) Hoeppner

airplane crash

is anybody out thee that has coordinates to the wreck site so I could visit it

military airplane crash 26 September 1976

Dear Paula Anne

I was one of the passengers on that KC 135 that crashed near Hubbard Lake, Michigan. I had been trapped in the wreckage for enough time that I was severely burned and those burns caused me to be medically retired from the Air Force.

I did not know your father. I have spoken to Vi Smithwick on the phone and assume that she is your grandmother.

I was able to locate all of the 5 survivors and put together a reunion which we held on 26 September 2006 - there in Alpena, Michigan. We had a memorial sign made up and hiked into the crash site and erected it as a memorial to your father and the others who perished there that day. The memorial continues to be visited by many and it has become a shrine where those who come across parts of the wreckage bring them to the memorial and add them to a stack of pieces. That pile of wreckage is now nearly as tall as the sign we placed there.

I am trying to get the survivors together for a 40th anniversary reunion there in Alpena. It would be focused around the 26th of September 2016
If you have an interest in this event, please let me know at jrharrison@snet.net

Captain John R. Harrison

Alpena, MI Tanker Crash September 26, 1976

Hello,

My name is Paula Anne Smithwick. My father, Richard N. Smithwick, was also lost during the plane crash in Alpena, MI on September 26, 1976. I was only 3 years old, and my brother just 6 weeks old when we lost Dad. Even after all these years, this story is - to say the least - heartbreaking for everyone involved.

I appreciate the comments posted here - all the kind words spoken about the people on the plane and the brave people who helped during/after the crash. It is comforting to know that Dad and the crew were treated with kind respect through to the end. We are grateful for your time and service. For those in my shoes - who have learned to walk through life with a loved one in your heart rather than beside you - my thoughts and prayers are with you all everyday. Unfortunately we all know the true price of freedom.

Thomas, I am also glad to know that you/the military learned from this horrific accident and were able to help provide safer flights for others moving forward... If you have any additional information regarding this flight/crash - please forward to my email address: appahoeppner@yahoo.com. I would appreciate any insight you may have!

Thanks again everyone,
~Paula Anne

Our Losses.

Like others, I found this page looking for info on the date of this loss. I didn't see the comments at the bottom till just today, several weeks after I found the article.

Major Fred Wrinkle was my favorite ROTC instructor at Parks College (1973-1977) He was so excited to be leaving ROTC and go back to flying. He was the guy that told me I could almost write my own ticket in the USAF because of my test results and grades.

We mourned his loss while I was still in college.

Ironically, my first active duty assignment was to the C/KC-135 engineering office at Tinker AFB. OK, where I would be eventually trained as a USAF aircraft mishap investigator. One of the case studies we looked at in the school at Norton was this mishap. So in a class of strangers I got to mourn Fred’s loss again.

Forty years later, I can still see Fred’s face.

But his loss, and the loss of your fathers, Darlene and Dean, and every one of our brothers-in-arms on that aircraft, drove me through the rest of my USAF and now FAA career to do my best to contribute to the safe and successful flight of every plane that launches.

Thank you all for sharing your grief and pain here. Please sleep well in knowing that others live because of what we learned from them.

Deceased List

My fathers name is Daniel Hughston Craven, not R., hometown listed as Pt. Hueneme, CA.

My Dad

Dear Thom -- Thank you for your story. It's good to know he wasn't burned though it must have been very hot in that cabin. Hoping that it was instant. My dad was indeed a large guy, being just around 6'1". And what was left of his hair was brown. I think he had a mustache, too, but 37 years has a way of dimming those details. We understood that he was in the "jump" seat as a last minute passenger.
I appreciate that you understood the sensitivity behind such a tragedy. It was indeed a traumatic time for all of us and it took awhile to recover.
If and when you read this, please let me know through my email - cgcw49@gmail.com.
Thanks again for providing me and my family with some level peace about Dad's passing.
Sincerely,
Darlene

Your Dad

Hello Darlene-

discovered this page while I was thinking about the accident that took your Dad and 14 other airmen. I was stationed at Wurtsmith AFB at that time and worked in the hospital.

I remember your father. It was my honor to help in the process of the recovery of personal items and to assist in the autopsy procedures for all of the deceased. If I am not mistaken your Dad was a good looking, dark haired and large framed gentleman.

While this sounds odd coming from a complete stranger I recall him distinctly. Due to the severity of the crash there was only one individual who completely escaped the ravage of the impact's subsequent fire. That person's image has stayed with me from that day forward and I believe that person was your father

All of them were treated with the utmost respect and care and we all knew that there were families who loved them. I just wanted to bring you (and me) a small sliver of closure concerning that horrible day I hope that this message isn't upsetting in any way but it feels to me (if I am correct about his identity) that is is important to share this with you

Thom

36 Years Ago

My father was on that plane, in the jump seat, as a last-minute passenger. My mother and I were in MT where she was helping me start college in Missoula. My sister, 10 at the time, and my brother, just barely 16, were staying with family friends. It was a desperately sad time and to this day, I do not know how my mother coped with it all. But we all have thrived since then and though we remember our dad, we have not defined our lives by this tragedy.

Victim name fixes and addl info

The Abilene Reporter News found space in their article for hometowns of the 15 victims, but also had some typos on the names. By cross-checking other sources (like 46th ARS tripod, Citadel Alumni & Grave markers) here is what I think is a list that may help any friend or relative find this story:

Major Frederick R. Wrinkle (pilot) - Lebanon, MO
1st Lt Ronald P. Roach (copilot) - Chicago & Da Valls Bluff, AR
Capt. Richard G. Dankey (navigator) - Woonsocket, SD
TSgt Gary L. Carlson (boom operator) - Tucson, AZ
Capt Oscar W. Duggan (extra pilot) - Lexington, SC
Capt. David A. Phelps (passenger) - Hinsdale, NY
Capt. Jack A. Kuzanek (passenger) - Dolton, IL
Major Daniel R. Craven (passenger) - Hueneme, CA
Capt. Charles R. Adams (passenger) - Springfield, MO
Capt William H. Warren Jr. (passenger) - Ft. Worth, TX
Capt. Jerry B. Richardson (passenger) - Marion, NY
Capt. Van Thomas Cook (passenger) - Orlando, FL
Capt. Richard N. Smithwick (passenger) - De Pere, WI
Lt. Robert S. Witt (passenger) - Rochester, NY
Sgt. James M. Singleton (passenger) - Oklahoma City, OK