Wilmington, NC Skydiving Plane Crashes, Sept 1961

100,000 WATCH PLANE CRASH, 3 ARE KILLED.

CARRIED SKY DIVERS, NEWSMEN.

Wilmington, N.C. (AP) -- An estimated 100,000 air show spectators watched in horror Sunday as a plane carrying the Army's famed sky divers aloft crashed and burned on takeoff. Three servicemen were killed.
Six sky divers, including Lt. JAMES P. PEARSON who recently won the world skydiving championship competing against Russians and others, were hurt. Several news photographers were amng the 18 on board.
Killed were:
Sgt. ROBERT T. TURNER, an Army photographer from Fort Bragg, N.C., home base of the skydivers.
Two Air Force men:
Capt. JOHN E. MARKEL.
T. Sgt. JOHN LESSO, both of Nellis (Nevada) AFB. MARKEL was the pilot.
Besides PEARSON, sky divers injured were:
M. Sgt. JOHN T. HOLLIS.
Sgt. JOE E. NORMAN.
Sgt. WILFRED J. A. CHARROTTE.
Spec. 5 BOBBY LETBETTER.
Pfc. ROBERT McDONNELL.
The big plane, a C-123 Flying Boxcar, lumbered down the runway at New Hanover County Airport, went into a steep climb at about 200 feet, stalled,then slipped downward to the right. It brke in two and into flames on impact.
Besides the thousands at the airport for Wilmington's fourth annual Civil Air Patrol "Friendship Day," uncounted others sawthe tragedy over WECT-TV of Wilmington.
"God, oh God," exclaimed the WECT-TV narrator as the craft which carried three men from WECT-TV, crashed.
Newsman C. D. MARTIN and photographer JOHN McNEILL of WECT-TV were injured. WECT-TV newsman JAMES CRAIG, originator of the idea of bringing the battleship USS North Carolina here as a memorial, as only shaken up.
Photographer ROBERT LEMOYNE of the Wilmington Star-News suffered a broken back and leg injuries.
The rest of the show was immediately cancelled. The sky diving was to have been followed by a demonstration by the Air Force Thunderbirds stunt team of jets which fly with wings almost touching.
"The plane took off, gained altitude, leveled out, tried to get up again and couldn't," said William B. Daniels of the New Bern (N.C.) Sun-Journal, who watched on television. "It made a sort of belly-landing and caught fire."

Albuquerque Journal New Mexico 1961-09-25

Comments

plane crash

Both John McNeil and Jimmy Craig died as a result of burn injuries. I believe their deaths were three and six weeks after the crash.