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Orlando, FL Bomber Crashes, Mar 1972


Orlando, Fla. (AP) -- Seven Air Force crewmen died and at least eight civilians were injured Friday when a burning B52 bomber nosedived into a residential neighborhood and sprayed homes with a sheet of blazing jet fuel.
The huge, eight-engined plane, which had reported a fire on board a few minutes before the crash carved a 150-foot crater in the field where it crashed. It slammed into the earth about 50 yards from the nearest house and a quarter mile from the McCoy Air Force Base runway where it was trying to land.
McCoy is just south of Orlando.
The eight civilians injured were identified as:
NANCY ROBERTSON, 36, and three of her children, ROBIN, 15; DANNY, 10, and LAURA, 9, all treated for minor burns at Orange Memorial Hospital.
ANTHONY ELLINGTON, 10, listed in very cricital condition.
BILLY GARLAND, 12; DONALD GARLAND, 7, and CHARLES GARLAND, 5, all listed in satisfactory condition at Florida Hospital.
Orange County sheriff's deputies said two buildings were completely gutted and two others suffered heavy damage as the wreckage continued to burn fiercely more than an hour after the crash.
One Air Force man who helped recover the bodies of the crew from smouldering wreckage that was scattered over a quarter-mile said only three of the bodies were recognizable.
The Air Force said the names of the seven men aboard the eight-engined bomber would be withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Two witnesses said it looked as if the pilot made an effort to guide his crippled plane away from McCoy's civilian terminal and populated areas and crash it in a nearby woods.
"I heard the plane first. I'm just out of the Marine Corps and I know the sound of an engine in trouble," said TOM SMITH, 24, who smashed down a redwood fence to rescue MRS. ROBINSON and her three children who were trapped in their yard near their burning home.

Florence Morning News South Carolina 1972-04-01



Orlando, Fla. (UPI) -- A crippled Air Force B52 jet bomber, trying to make the runway at McCoy Air Force Base, crashed in a sizzling inferno near a row of houses Friday, killing all seven crewmen and injuring eight persons on the ground.
The crash, which occurred a quarter-mile short of the runway, destroyed four houses and heavily damaged two others.
The plane plowed a 150-yard furrow in the ground within 50 to 100 yards of the houses of the Silver Beach residential section and sloshed flaming jet fuel through streets and backyards.
"I was standing in my friend's front yard and I heard the engines -- they sounded weird," said 17-year-old JAMES REEVES. "I live around here and I know what they sound like .. but these were like screaming."
The youth said he saw the plane "coming straight down -- coming down sort of sideways, slipping over" and when it hit, amushroom cloud of flame and black smoke shot into the sky.
The wing of the plane which has a wingspan of 185 feet, appeared to have hit one house, "and you can't even tell the house was there," Reeves said.
Lt. Gen Russell E. Dougherty, commander of the 2nd Air Force, said a fire apparently broke out in the No. 7 engine on the right wing of the eight-engine plane. Dougherty refused to speculate on the cause of the fire, but he said it was improbable that it was caused by lightning.
He said it appeared the crew did not bail out because they thought they could make it to the runway.
"They almost made it," he said.
Dougherty, who flew to Orlando from his headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., spent most of the first hour he was in town at the hospital bed of 10-year-old ANTHONY ELLINGTON, the most seriously injured civilian in the crash.
He said the Air Force had made arrangements to fly young ELLINGTON to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Tex. for treatment of burns.
The other civilians injured were identified as MRS. NANCY ROBERTSON and her three children ROBIN, 5, LAURA, 9, and DANNY, 10; BILLY GARLAND, 9, and his brothers DAN and CHARLES, ages 12 and 7 respectively. CHARLES was treated at a hospital and later released.
The dead crewmen, all members of the 306th Bombardment Wing at McCoy were identified as:
CAPT. WENDELL W. CAMPBELL, 30, the pilot, of Washington, D.C..
CAPT. BARRY E. APPLEBEE, 26, co-pilot, Dormansville, N.Y.
MAJ. JAMES J. HAMMONS, 37, radar-bombadier, Shawnee, Okla.
1st LT. ROBERT HEATHERLY, 26, navigator, Mount Vernon, N.Y.
MAJ. WILLIAM E. KESLER, 41, electronic warfare officer, Kesler's Fuquay-Varina, N.C.
M.SGT. ALLEN H. MURRAY, 53, gunner, Philadelphia, Pa.
LT. COL. GEORGE M. GAMACHE, 42, instructor-navigator, Sumerset, Mass.

Fort Pierce News Tribune Florida 1971-04-02


1972 bomber airplain crash at fort mccoy

i was six years old then and i remeber that day clearly. i will never forget the look in my mothers eyes and then there were sirens and people everywhere our family was told that it crashed on our end of the neighberhood. i would really like to see pictures if anybody has any or talk to survivors or family to talk about it. i might have only been six years old , but i remember it like it was yesterday will every detail. it still haunts me to this day. please reply

Good Friday 1972 Crash of B-52

I was 9 years old when the plane crashed into our block. I lived at 3907 Monarch Dr. I remember my mom was at work and my dad and his friend Tom Fink, who I believe worked for the sheriffs dept., were at our house working on motorcycles when I heard the screaming sound of the plane and watched from my front yard as it came down. I remember watching it hit the end of the block and seeing my dad and Tom running out of the house across the field toward the ws huge. I called my mom at work to tell her what had happened and she thought I was kidding, hanging up on my the first time, telling me not to call her because she thought I was lying! By the time I called back and told her daddy and Tom were gone, she must have believed me! When she got home she drove thru the police block and onto our front lawn, we were the second house off the corner. That day all of us kids were home, due to the holiday, and if it hadn't been for the weather, we would have been where we always were "playing in the field"...but most of us were inside that day...only Anthony Ellington would die. I remember the school, Shenendoah Elem., putting in a small section in the library, which was dedicated to his memory. Later we would pick up pieces of the crash, despite being told not to, with many of us taking parts home. Several days later men from the Air Force arrived at our door, where my mother showed them to my bedroom...I had a box under my bed filled with plane parts, including one that I had been tried to dismantle, unsuccessfully; they confiscated everything. Later I remember walking down to the houses at the end of the street and picking thru the rubble to see the debris floating in the built in pool... almost 20 years later I would live in Oscoda MI, less than a mile from Wurtsmith AFB, home of B-52' know, it never bothered me to hear those planes, probably because the sound that plane made that day when it was coming down, was nothing like the regular sound of the B-52's taking off and landing...
I'd love to hear from others from our neighborhood/school who remember that day...



b52 of 1972

hi my name is jason im 23 my dad saw this plan go down he was playing in the dairy . but there weeks ago i found seven parts of that plan out in the woods.

The Conway Crash of 1972

I am starting to contact people that were there and family members of crew. I have held this in for almost fourty years now and was finally diagnosed with PTSD. I would like to start a support group, because I have finally realized I wasn't the only one affected by this horrific day. I can also be found on face book.

B52 bomber crash

I remember this as well I was 8 and visiting second cousins with my uncles family
I can still remember hereing the sound looking out the back slidders everyone out
side looking up, the plane comming over the houses and my family running out front to
see what was going on. And how horribly the ground shook.

B-52 Crash in 1972 at McCoy Air Force Base

I was 15 visiting from Michigan my favorite uncle (my mothers's younger sister's husband) & aunt a Technical Sargent a home owner on Rampart Drive & stationed at McCoy AFB just returned from Thailand. After being overseas for 2 years servicing B-52's for the agent orange defoliating campaign in Laos where he physically inspected aircraft & caused his swift death of cancer 8 yrs later in 1980. Everything happened quickly that day, having got used to the B-52 whine wheather taking off or landing, this time something didn't sound right the next thing you hear was a bomb going off & the ground shaking. My uncle was on the phone talking Air Force jargon the next thing I remember the whole neighborhood was flooded with giant Air Force fire trucks MP's (military police) swarming & restricting anybody & everybody from & within. It was the most coolest experience as a kid not knowing then people died then until years later. McCoy still a active AFB then classified the whole incident for a couple of years . Pinecastle a small off base Air Force community surrounded by orange groves & trees with moss a area I eventually move to to attend Valencia Community College in 1977.

1972 B-52 Crash

I also remember the 1972 B-52 Crash. I lived in Conway Hills Subdivision on Leola Lane. This was the last street in the subdivision with orange groves behind & beside my street. Just through the orange grove behind my house was Conway Little League Field. We were always playing in the organge groves or at the little league baseball fields. That day, we were behind the senior league field close to the pond in the orange grove. Living in the flight pattern for McCoy AFB we were all used to the B-52s coming over. I think every house on our street had at least one crack in the cinder block walls. Sometimes we hardly even noticed the planes but we all looked up at this plane - it was much, much lower and louder as it was coming towards us. It almost looked as if it were weaving through the senior field lights as it passed over. We didn't see any smoke or fire coming from the plane. From where we were, we just watched the plane continue, very low towards the AFB We saw it disappear over the orange grove between our subdivision and Shenadoah Elementary until we could't see it anymore. We then heard a large boom and saw a huge mushroom cloud of smoke rise up over the orange grove. We knew it had crashed. We heard sirens for what seemed like hours.

Later that night, we saw on the news where Anthony Ellington was hurt and had been moved to a Texas Burn Center. Anthony was a friend of mine. I can't remember exactly now but it seems like a couple of days passed and we learned Anthony had died. I remember him as a strong & competitive boy, everyone liked him. This is a childhood memory I have always lived with and is something I will never forget.


I will always rember that day, I was out side riding my bike with my brother when we saw the plane come over us, we lived on Montrose Ct in Conway, we thaouht it was very low, but we were so use to seeing B52s that we thought nothing of it, till we felt the groung shake, and a big ball of flames and black smoke comming from above the trees, we then began to follow were the smoke was comming from, down on S. Conway Rd, we knew then that a plane crashed, but we had no idea it was the one that just passed us, when we got close, the heat was terrible, we had to stop becouse the sheriff was keeping us away from getting closer.
I still rember that pool you talk about, that house stood vacant for years after that.
Take care

plane crash 3-31-1972

Hey Donna, I was your classmate at Shenendoah and your neighbor, I was also with my brothers and Anthony on that day we all got burned, I still go by there every once in a while, you had a brother (Danny) I think, we used to play together.

article | by Dr. Radut