Gillsburg, MS Plane Crash Kills Lynyrd Skynyrd Band Members, Oct 1977
Survivors included guitarists ALLEN COLLINS and GARY ROSSINGTON, drummer ARTIMUS PYLE, bassist LEON WILKESON and keyboard player BILLY POWELL.
ROSSINGTON, POWELL and WILKESON were in critical condition while PYLE and COLLINS were listed as stable.
The plane, a propeller-driver Convair 240, ran out of gas and plowed nose first into a thickly wooded area only 200 yards from a open field which the pilot apparently was trying to reach.
"It is really a miracle that anybody walked out," an FAA investigator said.
Another of the survivors, sound technician KENNETH PETDEN, said "the right engine developed trouble and it began to sputter. We began losing altitude and eventually the left engine started sputtering and we lost it. Everybody knew at that point he (the pilot) was going to try to make an emergency landing."
PETDEN said one of the passengers was up front with the flight crew when the trouble started and the passenger returned to the cabin section and said the pilot had instructed that everybody sit down and put on their seat belts.
PETDEN said there was no confusion or panic. "Everybody headed for their seats and buckled down. They did what they were supposed to do."
PETDEN said he was sitting behind the right wing and could see the trees coming up. "I knew we weren't close enough to reach the field. I knew we were going to hit the trees."
PETDEN said the crash wiped out the band. "The band will never again play as Lynyrd Skynyrd. I'm almost certain. RONNIE VAN ZANT was the lead vocalist and writer. The only other member who sand and wrote was STEVE GAINS[sic]. I'm sure Lynyrd Skynyrd is deceeased[sic]."
The plane was en route from Greenville, S. C., to Baton Rouge, La., for a concert Friday night when it went down two miles northeast of Gillsburg near the Louisiana-Mississippi line. The Jacksonville, Fla. based band performed Wednesday night in Greenville.
A spokesman for Sir Productions, which handles the group, said all occupants of the plane except the crew were connected with Lynyrd Skynyrd or its members.
Rescue teams, working with flashlights, sloshed through a knee-deep creek to reach the scene of the crash and hauled the injured out on stretchers to ambulances waiting a half mile away. Most of the injured were taken to Southwest Medical Center in McComb, about 10 miles away.
Delta Democrat-Times Greenville Mississippi 1977-10-21
WALTER McCREARY, pilot.
WILLIAM GRAY, co-pilot.
RONNIE VAN ZANT, singer/songwriter.
STEVE GAINES, guitarist/vocalist.
CASSIE GAINES, vocalist.
DEAN KILPATRICK, assistant road manager.
Survivors of the Crash:
LEON WILKESON, bass guitarist.
GARY ROSSINGTON, guitarist.
LARKEN ALLEN COLLINS, guitarist.
BILL POWELL, pianist.
ARTIMUS PYLE, drummer.
LESLIE HAWKINS, vocalist.
RON ECKERMAN, road manager.
GENE ODOM, security manager.
JAMES BRACE, road crew member.
MARK FRANK, road crew member.
MARK HOWARD, road crew member.
CLAYTON JOHNSON, road crew member.
DON KRETZECHMAN, road crew member.
JOE OSBORN, road crew member.
KENNETH PEDEN, road crew member.
CRAIG REED, road crew member.
PAUL WELCH, road crew member.
STEVE LAWLER, lighting technician.
KEVIN ELSON, sound engineer.
BILL SYKES, television film crewman.