Charlotte, NC Jet Crash Kills Sixty Nine, Sep 1974

Charlotte, NC Jet Crash Sept 1974


Charlotte, N. C. (AP) -- An Eastern Airlines jet attempting to land at fog-shrouded Douglas Municipal Airport plowed into a wooded hillside early Wednesday, killing 69 persons.
Among the dead were the acting commandant of the 6th Naval District in Charleston, S. C., three production executives of the Charleston newspapers and a Charleston television news director.
Also killed was JOHN MERRIMAN, news editor for Walter Cronkite's CBS Evening News in New York.
The plane Eastern Flight 212, originated in Charleston and was making a stop in Charlotte before going on to Chicago.
ED SLATTERY a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said both ot the plane's recorders had been recovered and were en route to Washington in an effort to determine the cause of the crash.
JIM ASHLOCK of Miami, Eastern's public relations director, said mystery surrounded the crash. He said the craft had been given clearance to land just moments before it plummeted into the hillside two miles from the airfield.
A morgue was set up at the National Guard Armory near the airport.
DR. LINDA NORTON, pathologist with the state medical examiner's office, said the morgue was in total confusion as the bodies began to arrive in refrigerated trucks.
She said none of the bodies had been identified early Wednesday night.
The FBI was at the morgue and in charge of the identification process.
One of the survivors, stewardess COLLETTE WATSON, walked from the wreckage with only minor injuries. She was given medical attention and was released from a Charlotte hospital.
Another survivor, ROBERT BURNHAM of Charleston, said he thought he was thrown from the plane a DC9-30.
"We were coming in and the pilot seemed to pick up power. It was real foggy. I felt one wing tip (down) then it hit some trees and I felt heat." BURNHAM said.
"I must have been thrown out of the plane. I got up, looked around and started running toward the woods."
Rescue workers found bodies and survivors scattered hundreds of yards from the plane. Pieces of clothing were found in the brush and trees.
An Eastern spokesman said the plane was making an instrument landing using a straight-in approach.
"We do not know the exact cause of the accident. However, there was a heavy ground fog," said WILLIAM RAWLINGS. Eastern's district sales manager.
JIM STANLEY, who lives near the crash area, was one of the first persons to reach the wreckage. He said the plane was torn apart and was burning.
"The first thing I saw was people lying on the ground. This girl was lying beside the fuselage and had burns from head to toe, but she was alive," STANLEY said.
"She was screaming real loud and I got sick. There was a man lying near her. His chest and his face were all messed up. I ran between the two burning sections of the plane. The ground was still on fire but it was burning down," STANLEY said.
Police, who blocked all traffic in a two-mile radius, said the plane appeared to have exploded after landing.
C. T. McCUISTON, whose home is about a half-mile from the crash scene, said he heard "a muffled explosion."
JOHN SHOCKLEY, who works at the airport, said he arrived at the scene about 10 minutes after the crash and saw four men walking around in a daze. "They were scarred and bruised."
"I talked to one of the survivors and he told me he was dozing in the plane when all of a sudden he was flying through the air. He was skinned but not burned."



Just houses today

The coordinates to the site are:

35°09?14?N 80°55?34?W

Just another suburb these days

Stephen Colbert's family among the dead

The three deceased Colbert passengers were the father and brothers of television actor and comedian Stephen Colbert.

Spelling Correction for CDR John Russell Sopko

The spelling of the last name of the man listed as Cmdr. JOHN RUSSELL SAPKO should be SOPKO. See his personal memorial page at http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/sopko-j-r.html .

Misspelling of passenger name

Your article mentions a surviving passenger, Diane Tracy. Her name is actually Deanne Tracy and she was one of three passengers who initially survived the crash with burns over 90% of her body. She died 6 days later of her injuries. She was my cousin and I was 10 years old when Deanne, 17 years old, was so badly burned and died. Our family was, and still is, devastated by her agonizing death.