New Hope, GA Southern Airways Jetliner Crash, Apr 1977
PLANE CRASHES INTO STORE.
68 KILLED, 27 INJURED AS DC9 JET ENGINES FAIL.
New Hope, Ga. (UPI) -- A Southern Airways DC9 jet, with both engines dead and the pilot desperately trying to make an emergency landing on a twolane highway, crashed and exploded Monday in a fierce hailstorm.
Sixty-eight persons were killed and 27 others were injured when the plane smashed into a grocery store and several cars before exploding in a vacant lot.
Lt. RAYMOND McDERMID of the Georgia State Patrol, who set up a command post at the crash scene in this suburb 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, said all the bodies were taken to a makeshift morgue at a nearby warehouse. He said about 30 bodies had been identified.
Federal investigators, who began examining the wreckage this morning, said there is evidence that hail damaged the jet engines and windshield of the ill-fated plane.
There were 85 passengers and crew aboard when the plane came in for its aborted crashlanding. The big ship rared[sic] down the highway for some 300 feet, plowed through the store, smashed several cars and sheared off telephone poles and trees before the broken craft came to a halt.
The plane, Flight 242 from Huntsville and Muscle Shoals, Ala., to Atlanta, developed trouble after running into a hailstorm outside Atlanta.
DR. DARIUS SMITH, who treated both stewardesses at a hospital, said the women told him that hail began smashing against the windows of the plane with "terrible noises," and then the craft lost power.
Many residents of this community of 1,400, where 4,000 Union soldiers were killed in one of the bloodiest battles of Gen. William T. Sherman's march of Atlanta, witnessed the disaster.
"It sounded like a tornado and I screamed for everyone to run and I looked back down the highway and here come a jet plane," said MRS. MARY CLAYTON, who was working in her yard when the airliner came out of a squall at 4:20 p.m. EST.
"It was breaking apart all down the road," she said. "It was throwing pieces up in the air and they were exploding."
The pilot, Capt. WILLIAM W. McKENZIE, 54, of Laplace, La., swooped low over the New Hope Elementary School and guided the crippled craft down the narrow highway. McKENZIE died in the wreckage.
"He did a miraculous thing," Sheriff BOB SHIPP said. "He did all he could and probably lost his life doing it. He had his mind and thoughts with the people on that plane."
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