Monroe, GA Commuter Plane Crash, July 1969


Monroe, Ga. (AP) -- A twin-engine Air South commuter airplane with 14 persons aboard crashed and exploded in a swampy area Sunday night and there were no known survivors, the Federal Aviation Agency said today.
FAA Duty Officer George Collier said the plane was on an instrument flight when it crashed about 9:20 p.m. about five miles west of Monroe. The plane, flight 168, had left Atlanta 28 minutes earlier.
Robert Dick, vice president of Air South, said the plane was on a regularly scheduled fllight from Atlanta to Greenville, Spartanburg and Sumter, S.C. It carried 12 passengers in addition to the pilot and copilot, he said.
The plane was a twin-engine turbojet Beechcraft known as a Beech 99 airliner with a capacity of 17 persons, Dick said. He added the plane was less than a year old.
"We have no idea what happened," Dick said. "I'd hesitate to say one way or the other. This is our first accident."
Walton County Sheriff Franklin Thornton said the plane crashed in good weather with clear skies and no wind. He said it struck about 20 feet from an abandoned house but the house was not destroyed.
"It just covered the top with debris," the sheriff said.
Thornton said wreckage was scattered over an acre and a half and that there were only small pieces left of the aircraft.
There were no witnesses to the accident but the sheriff said residents heard the plane just before it struck the ground in a pasture.
"It was running terribly low and the engines were wide open," the sheriff said.
The sheriff said the airplane did not burn although there was fuel spilled on the ground.
"It looked like to me it exploded from the inside," the sheriff said. He described the wreckage as "bolts and nuts."
There were billfolds and other papers at the crash site but identities were withheld. The sheriff said at least one of the victims was an Army officer.
FAA officials who arrived from Atlanta ordered the crash site blocked off. Investigators were enroute from Miami and Washington, the sheriff said.
Air South, a commuter air carrier based in Atlanta, serves Nashville, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Augusta, Brunswick, Albany and Tifton, Ga., in addition to the South Carolina cities.

The News Tribune Fort Pierce Florida 1969-07-07



Monroe, Ga. (AP) -- Federal investigators say they expect it will take weeks and possibly months to determine the cause of the crash which disintegrated an Air South commuter jet plane and killed the 14 persons aboard, including South Carolinians.
Bruce Hoch of the National Transportation and Safety Board which is directing the probe, said Monday investigation teams probably will study the crash site, a quarter-mile area littered with bits of the plane and personal belongings -- all week.
A board spokesman in Washington predicted it might be as long as six months before the cause of the late Sunday night crash can be announced.
The plane, en route from Atlanta to Sumter, S.C., with 12 passengers and two crew members, came in low over a hill, raced its engines, then crashed into the yard of an abandoned farmhouse about five miles west of Monroe.
Hoch said it apparently hit the ground at a "fairly steep" angle, burying its engines in a jagged crater, disintegrating the fuselage, littering the house and roof with debris, flinging pieces of seats into the trees, and covering the ground with jet fuel.
The plane's wings tore away before it crashed, and fell intact about 300 feet from the point of impact. They were the largest plane pieces found.
There was no fire. Hoch said apparently there was no explosion, although "we haven't ruled that out."
Residents of the rural area reported hearing an explosion just before the crash which occurred at nightfall. There were no eyewitnesses. The weather was clear.
Hoch suggested after a preliminary check of the crash site Monday that the accident was due to an "inflight structural failure of some sort" in the year-old turboprop jet, but "what caused it we don't know yet."
Only one of the 14 victims remained unidentified by late Monday.
Air South said the crew members and seven civilian passengers were:
Capt. ERWIN W. WOOD of Mapleton, the pilot.
THOMAS M. WAGNER of Forest Park, the co-pilot.
CHRISTOPHER GIBSON, 18, of Spartanburg, S.C.
MISS NANCY GRIFFIN, Sumter, S.C., a student at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga.
LEE J. HOBART, 54, of Pontiac, Ill.
MARK WOODRUFF SWAGGART, an employe of Goodyear Aerospace in Phoenix, Ariz.
MISS REBA ROBERTS, 18, of Anderson, S.C.
WILLIAM VOGEL of the Baltimore, Md., area.
Five of the victims were military men.
Shaw Air Force Base at Sumter, S.C., identified three of them as:
Col. JAMES M. WINTERBOTTOM, director of intelligence for the Tactical Air Reconnaisance Center at Shaw and a native of Santa Monica, Calif.
S.Sgt. JOHN J. BICKEL of Indianapolis, Ind.
Airman 1C MICHAEL J. FLYNN, 21, of Chicago.
The family of Sgt. DOUGLAS N. SWICKARD, 22 of Crawfordville, Ind., reported that he was one of the victims.

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1969-07-08