Conway, SC Military Planes In Mid-Air Collision, Dec 1972


Conway -- Thirteen airmen are believed to have been killed in a fiery collision of two military planes that lit up a dark December sky over a remote rural area of Horry County Tuesday night.
It is thought to be the worst military air disaster in South Carolina history.
The two planes, a heavy transport four-engine C130 Hercules from Pope Air Force Base, N. C., and an F102 fighter interceptor from McIntyre AFB near Columbia, apparently collided while on a routine training mission. Air Force officials said the F102 was supposed to intercept the transport and try to shoot it down with hits recorded electronically.
But training somehow became reality and the two planes burst into flames, spewing fiery wreckage down on the small Berea Church community near Bayboro, about 15 miles north of Conway off Hwy. 410.
The heavy transport, carrying 12 men, plummeted into the middle of a farm road, digging out a crater 20 by 50 feet and six to eight feet deep.
The impact and resulting explosion was so great that it blew out the doorknobs and locks in a nearby house and sent bits of flaming metal flying hundreds of yards in all directions. The roof of the house was set on fire.
The jet, carrying a lone pilot, crashed in woods about a mile and a half away. It apparently dropped almost straight down, because few of the surrounding trees were damaged. The cockpit and tail section of the plane landed in a cornfield about two hundred yards away.
Thousands of curiosity seekers flooded into the area following the approximately 7:15 p.m. crash, hampering the efforts of searchers who filtered through the thick pine woods with floodlights. People reported seeing the midair crash as far away as Myrtle Beach and Florence County.
Light rains Tuesday night and heavy rains Wednesday also impeded search operations, but the wreckage of both planes continued to smoulder Wednesday afternoon, sending curls of acrid smoke into wet and unseasonably warm air.
Several witnesses reported seeing parachutes following the crash, but a spokesman for the Disaster Response Force out of Myrtle Beach AFB discounted these sightings shortly after the crash on the grounds that no signals had been picked up from the emergency transmitters contained in the chutes.
JOHNNY CREEL, Horry County Civil Defense Director, said one woman told him she had positively seen five parachutes float into the woods. There were no reports, however, of searchers finding and parachutes.
As of late Wednesday, the Air Force had listed only the pilot of the jet as being officially dead. He was Capt. JAMES C. HAGOOD, JR., 28, of Lexington, an Eastern Air Lines pilot on National Guard duty at the time of the crash.
The 12 men in the C130 transport were officially listed as missing, but Air Force spokesmen said there was little hope anyone survived.
The transport personnel included:
Lt. Col. DONALD E. MARTIN, White Oak, Tex.
Maj. KEITH L. VAN NOTE, Mason City, Iowa.
Capt. JOHN R. COLE, Tulsa, Okla.
Capt. LOUIS R. SERT, St. Louis, Mo.
2nd Lt. DOUGLAS L. THIERER, no home town available.
Tech. Sgt. ROBERT E. DOYLE, South Hill, Va.
Tech. Sgt. CLAUDE ABBOTT, Adel, Ga.
S. Sgt. GILMORE A. MICKLEY, JR., Chambersburg, Pa.
S. Sgt. BILLY M. WARR, SR., Slymar, Calif.
Sgt. GERALD K. FAUST, Oregon, Wis.
The name of the twelfth man was withheld pending notification of next of kin.
It was announced Wednesday afternoon that a special panel of top level military brass would be formed to investigate the cause of the mysterious crash.
Special attention will probably be given to a series of secondary explosions which reportedly took place in the big transport plane after the initial explosion. The plane was supposed to be carrying dummy bombs.
Whatever the cause, the crash will probably go into the books as one of the worst military air disasters in South Carolina.
Capt. BOB GORE, public information officer with Myrtle Beach AFB, said he had "never seen anything this bad." Several other Air Force people also said they couldn't remember a worse air disaster.

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1972-12-07


F-102/C-130E crash

Hi, Kathy:
My name is "H" Cary and in Dec 1972, I was a 1st Lt in the USAF MSC stationed at Myrtle Beach AFB SC. I was taking our babysitter home and saw the C-130E ("E" for electronics) executing a turn over the Myrtle Beach AFB field - a fairly common occurrence for these traing flights out of, I believe, Pope AFB NC.

The babysitter lived but a few blocks away and as as I was coming home, I saw an explosion - fireball, really - in the western sky. I was the duty officer for the hospital that day and stopped in front of the house and told my wife there'd been a plane crash - what else could it have been - and that I was going to the hospital. About 5" 'later the base sirens sounded.

I dispatched an ambulance to the crash site w/ medics and a doctor but there was little to do other treat a few burns on the hands of first responders. The next morning, I accompanied the relief ambulance and coordinated the search for dog tags, etc. It's a day I'll never forget and this weeks news of the F-16/Cessna crash near Charleston brought it all back and I saw your post.

The remains were brought to the morgue at USAF Hospital Myrtle Beach and a pathologist from Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio was flown in; I can tell you, unequivocally, that the remains were treated with the utmost respect. I learned later that those on the C-130E were buried in a common grave at Jefferson Barracks MO but I don't know that for a fact.

I was also told that there was a young officer on the C-130E who'd recently been assigned and was not on the original crew list - he just wanted to come along to observe and learn - perhaps that was your brother....
I have often prayed for the souls of those lost that day and their families - I hope that this info will, in some small way, be helpful.
Hunsdon "H" Cary, Capt. USAF MSC, 1971-75.

Conway, SC Mid-Air Collision Dec. 1972


We have been searching for more information ourselves. My brother, Douglas Thierer, was also killed on that cargo plane in Dec. 1972. My brother and 2 sisters set out this past week to visit the crash site and talk to eyewitnesses. We heard their memories of that night and the days that followed. They even showed us a broken propellor and some coins they found after the crash. We also searched all area newspapers to copy any articles related to the incident. Feel free to contact us or visit the facebook page above. We titled it Team Doug 2014. We will continue to add info as we compile it.

We're so sorry for your loss. Our brother, Doug, has been sorely missed all these years. He was a wonderful brother and role model to us. He was only 23 years old at the time and had a wife and young son.

Kathy Fischer
1854 State Route 117
Benson, IL 61516
[email protected]

Hey my name is Carol Todd, I

Hey my name is Carol Todd,
I saw the events that happened that day. Has anyone emailed you about the events that happened that day?

Carol Todd

Crash on December 5, 1972

I am the only daughter to S. Sgt. BILLY M. WARR, SR., from Slymar, Calif. I just wanted to say after 41 years this was the first time I read what had actually happened to my father. Yes, after all these years it was very heart breaking. I was four years old when this tragic accident happened. I do remember two service men at our front door and they told my mom what happened to my dad and I remember how confused I was. My mom was in hystrics. All I knew was something was not right. After that I cannot remember much else. This time of year has always been very tough on me and my brothers, but reading this article does help understand but I still have so many questions unanswered. I want to know if they ever found out what happened. Do you know? I would like to hear back from anyone who has knowledge of this. I greatly appreciate it. Thank you. my email is [email protected]

R.I.P S. Sgt. Billy M. Warr, Sr. aka my hero, my father. Love you always and forever.

Scheryl L. Warr