Bull Mountain, VA Bomber Crash, Mar 1944
12 DIE IN PATRICK AIR CRASH.
VICTIMS SEARED AS BOMBER HITS BULL MOUNTAIN.
DEAD NOT IDENTIFIED; PLANE FROM S.C. IN TROUBLE LONG BEFORE CRASH NEAR STUART.
(Special to The Bee)
Stuart, Va., March 16. -- A big Army bomber, apparently lost over the rugged Blue Ridge highlands crashed into the side of Bull Mountain near here last night at 10:40 p.m. carrying twelve crew members to their instant death.
The bomber was a four engined plane out of Charleston, S.C., air base.
Public relations officers at the air base this afternoon would give no details, nor were the names of the victims given out, these being customarily withheld, until the next of kin have been notified.
Nor did the official statement say how many were in the plane. But mountaineers who reached the scene of the crash counted for themselves twelve bodies -- bodies blackened and seared by the exploding fuel tanks as the machine crashed.
Early this afternoon the charred bodies were being brought back to Stuart, a distance of about five miles, while highly commissioned Army men from Greensboro and Winston-Salem made notes on the disaster and heard from eyewitnesses from which the official chronicle of another wartime disaster will be built.
Where the plane was going is not known. It may have been on a routine night flying mission.
The bodies were to be sent in hearses probably to Winston-Salem, N.C., but no authoritative statement was made by any Army official here as to identify, cause of the crash or disposition of the remains.
The plane which was in difficulties fully half an hour before it rammed the mountain wilderness, needed only fifty feet of lift to clear the broad back of the Blue Ridge foothill for the point of impact was the crest of the mountain.
The impact cause the gasoline tanks to explode causing a miniature forest fire which was being controlled by a large group of valunteer fire fighters this morning.
Many from the sparsely inhabited region gathered to lend what aid they could last night but there was great difficulty in fighting a way through the craigs, clefts and the underbrush to reach the blazing funeral pyre of the victims.
Whether all of the victims were Army men or others could not be immediately determined. Those first returning from the scene said that the bodies were seared and blackened also that their identification discs had been burned off.
Army officers came here at daylight in staff cars and were organizing to get the bodies down the side of the mountain and to make an investigation at the scene of the wreck also to take the personal eyewitness stories of farmers routed from their homes by the low-flying plane which seemed to be hunting a landing guided by a searchlight in the nose of the fuselage.
First reports were that nine had been killed in the crash but when Lieutenant P. W. Crews of the state police, stationed at Roanoke, reached here from the scene of the wreck at 9:30 o'clock he said that he had counted twelve bodies personally.
Lieutenant Crews who came here to make an official report to state headquarters said that he had left a detail of state police to guard the bodies and the wreckage "until the Army moves in and takes over." That procedure was being followed late this morning and officers from Winston-Salem and Greensboro -- (from which point the bomber is believed to have started its final journey) -- were at the scene late this morning.
Lieutenant Crews said that while the bodies were blackened some of them were not in bad condition.
Whether any of them can be identified, however, Lieut. Crews could not say. "It was not my job to identify the bodies but to se that nothing was touched or removed until Army officers get here."
The state police officer said the bodies were strewn over about 150 feet of brush.
The plane he said was reduced to small fragments. He said the could see only two motors from the plane but he was told, that the wrecked craft was a four motored Army bomber.
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