McChord AFB, WA Cargo Plane Crashes, May 1961


McChord Air Force Base, Wash. (AP) -- A giant C124 transport airlifting troops from maneuvers in Washington faltered on takeoff and plunged to fiery disaster Wednesday. Eighteen were killed, four injured.
Aboard the four-engined, propeller-driver Globemaster were 15 Army enlisted men from Fort Sill, Okla., and an Air Force crew of seven, including two officers.
Three of the four survivors were listed as critical, the other in serious condition at Madigan Army Hospital. They were badly burned and battered.
The C124 crashed in a wooded area about two miles from the end of the McChord runway, where it had taken off at 2:33 a.m. for Ft. Sill.
The big plane was one of seven from Donaldson Air Force Base, Greenville, S. C., ferrying back 115 Ft. Sill soldiers who had left there April 20 by truck to take part in Exercise Lava Plains at the Yakima Firing Range.
Five of the 22 aboard the C124 were thrown out alive when it pancaked to earth, split and burst into flames. One died on the way to the hospital.
"One of the first men at the scene heard a man calling for help," said Capt. JOSEPH WIGGINS, McChord public information officer. "The survivor, in shock, was found sitting on a log near the wreckage."
"There was a flash in the sky," said a sheriff's officer. "We could not tell whether it came from an explosion in the air or after the plane hit the ground."
The $1.5 million plane apparently came down sharply. Although it landed in a heavily wooded area it cut no swath and knocked down only a few trees.
Nearly everything burned. Even metal melted. Hours after the crash the wreckage still smouldered.
The injured were evacuated by a helicopter crew who brought their craft down in a narrow clearing between power lines and trees.
The C124 was returning men who had participated in recent Army-Air Force maneuvers, called Exercise Lava Plains, at Yakima, Wash., miles east of McChord.
In addition to the 22 servicemen aboard, the Globemaster carried a 16,230-pound truck, a 5,120-pound trailer, a jeep and a light trailer. It was not a heavy load for the C124, which can carry up to 200 men.
The plane came down on the edge of the Ft. Lewis military reservation, adjacent to McChord. The bases are 10 miles southwest of Tacoma, Wash., and about 40 miles south of Seattle.

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