Rains, SC Two Army Bombers Collide, May 1941
FOUR FLIERS KILLED IN COLLISION OF 2 ARMY BOMBERS.
TRAGEDY OCCURS AT ARIAL -- FOLLOWED BY FIRE AND EXPLOSION.
FIVE PLANES WERE FLYING IN V-FORMATION FROM SAVANNAH TO LANGLEY FIELD.
ONE JUMPS CLEAR IN PARACHUTE BUT SUFFERS BROKEN NECK AND DIES.
Rains, S. C., May 19 -- (AP) -- A collision of two light army bombers high above this little Eastern South Carolina community, followed by fire and an explosion, cost the lives of four pilots today.
Army authorities at the Savannah, Ga., air base, from which the planes had taken off on a training flight to Langley Field, Va., said the victims were:
Second Lieut. FRANK H. RALSTON, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Second Lieut. ALLEN J. MOORE, Reno, Nev.
Sargeant DAVID L. BOYD, Frost, Texas.
Corporal HERBERT O. PRUITT, Collinsville, Miss.
One of the planes was shattered to bits by an explosion and burned as it landed in front of a deserted tennant house, and the other caught fire and was so thoroughly consumed that eye-witnesses at first were certain there had been six men killed.
Lieut. MOORE jumped in his parachute. Witnesses say he made a slow landing in a field, but he died of a broken neck while being taken to a hospital at Mullins near here.
Witnesses said the two planes, leading a flight of five bombers, apparently were thrown together, as if by a gust of wind, just as they emerged from a cloudbank almost directly above the Rains school house. Both appeared to be out of control immediately thereafter.
The first to fall crashed into an open field near Atial's Cross Roads, about a mile and a half from here on the Mullins highway. Some spectators said the pilot seemed to be trying for a pancake landing in the field, but, others added smoke was pouring from the plane, indicating it was on fire before it reached the ground. As it struck, flames shot up and consumed it quickly. The bodies of the occupants could be seen in the charred wreckage several hours later.
The other, from which Lieut. MOORE leaped, fell a mile and a half farther to the northeast, in front of an empty house and exploding. The plane and its occupant were shattered and burned.
The flight began from the Savannah air base at 10:30 a.m., and it was 11:40 when the accident occurred. One of the remaining three bombers continued on to Langley Field, while the other two returned to the Savannah base.
MOORE was married and had established a home in Savannah since his assignment to the base there. His body was found near the burned fragments of his plane.
MRS. INEZ SMITH and MRS. DAISY MARICELLON took the flier into an automobile and started for the Mullins hospital but he was found dead upon their arrival.
Guards were posted around the wreckage to keep back the curious pending arrival of army authorities take charge.
NEIL McCRACKEN, a farmer of Rains who saw the crash, said he was watching the planes flying in formation high in the air. One of them collided with one just ahead. The planes, he said, seemed to be flying at an altitude of two miles.
"Suddenlty," said McCRACKEN, "one of the planes shot forward at a much greater speed and at the same time were out of control. After the crash, both machines spiraled downward."
The collision occurred almost directly above the Rains school. Rains is a country community 8 miles south of Mullins. Many of the school children witnessed the crash.
The planes fell about a mile apart, each about 100 yards on opposite sides of Highway 57. In a few minutes, hundreds of farm people, school children and passersby had gathered to view the wreckage of the two bombers.
The crash was the first fatal mishap involving army planes since the army air base was established at Savannah last October. Late yesterday afternoon the bodies of Lieut. RALSTON and Sergeants BOYD and PRUITT had not been removed. It was reported at Mullins that the body of Lieut. MOORE had been carried to Fort Bragg.
Florence Morning News South Carolina 1941-05-20