Peaks of Otter, VA Army Bomber Crash, Feb 1943
FIVE ARMY MEN DIE IN CRASH OF PLANE.
2-ENGINED BOMBER HITS SIDE OF PEAKS.
MEN'S BODIES BADLY MANGLED BY CRASH AND FOLLOWING EXPLOSIONS.
Bedford, Virginia --Five men of the armed forces, four lieutenants and one corporal, met instant death Tuesday night a little before 10 o'clock when a twin-engined army plane crashed into the Peaks of Otter on the southwest slope of the mountain three-quarters of a mile from the top. Bedford men who reached the scene in the early hours of Wednesday morning stated on their return that the wreckage presented a scene of horror not often witnessed and gave it as their opinion that four of the victims will never by positively identified and it is very doubtful if the fifth one will either.
The crash of the big plane into the mountainside was followed almost immediately by terrific explosions and then the wreckage burst into flames. The fire was seen by a number of people in Bedford, who correctly conjectured what had happened. Those who reached the scene of the disaster were sickened by the sheer horror of what they saw. The impact against the mountain and the explosions and fire which followed, mangled and burned the five crew-members beyond recognition. All the bodies were cruelly crushed and mangled, some were dismembered, and one of the searchers, who stayed at the scene until 10 o'clock Wednesday morning, said that the head of one of the men had not been found when he left.
The explosion carried such force that the plane itself was literally shattered to bits and scattered over the mountainside for hundreds of yards, and in event any of the crew survived the crash they were killed a second or two later by the explosions. Enough was left of the plane to identify it as a twin-engined army bomber (Trans.: B-25) and it is supposed to have left Columbia Field, S.C. some time Tuesday afternoon, but no statement has been made as to its destination.
Quite a number of Bedford people heard the plane pass over the town a few minutes before it crashed, and all agree that it was flying very low, with the pilot apparently having trouble with the engines. One resident of South street said the plane was so low he was afraid it would hit some building on the high points in Bedford, and those who recognized that the plane was not functioning properly were not greatly surprised at its tragic finish -- as the pilot, evidently unacquainted with this area, was flying toward the mountains.
Word of the fatal accident spread rapidly and several searching parties quickly organized and left town to make search for the plane. The first group from Bedford to reach the scene was composed of Henry Turner, Glen Ramsey, C.O. Updike, Harold and Lloyd Goode and Berkley Gray, but they found three men who live at the foot of the mountain already there. Another party of Bedford men reached the scene of the crash about 3 A.M. and remained until 10 A.M. before returning home.
Late yesterday afternoon Major Gen. G. P. Kaine and Captain Murray arrived from Winston-Salem, N.C., for an inspection of the wreck and the M.P. Carder Company was ordered to take charge of the bodies and prepare them for burial. The officers, with a group of volunteers went to the scene of the crash to handle the gruesome job of gathering up the mangled bodies of the five men preparatory to bringing them off the mountain. This task was attended by many difficulties, as the plane wrecked several miles from any road and the bodies had to be carried over an extremely rough terrain after darkness fell to reach the ambulance which was waiting at the nearest point on the road.
The two officers gave the names, addresses and next of kin of the five men as follows:
Second Lieutenant GEORGE R. BENINGA; wife, Mrs. Ruth Beninga, Columbia; father, Ralph Beninga, Marietta, Minn.
Second Lieutenant HILIARY S. BLACKWELL, 22; mother, Mrs. H. A. Blackwell, Santa Monica, Cal.
Second Lieutenant PAUL M. PITTS, 21, the pilot; father, L. D. Pitts, Poteau, Okla.
Second Lieutenant WILLIAM McCLURE, 22, father, William C. McClure, Indianapolis, Ind.
Corporal PETER J. BISCAN, 29; brother, John Biscan, Chicago, Ill.
The Twin Peaks and other mountains of the Blue Ridge chain north of Bedford, are among the highest in the State, but this is the first time a plane has wrecked, fatally, crossing them. The regular airway through Bedford county is east and west, with beacon lights marking the way for night flyers, but this plane came up from the south and, with nothing to guide him or warn of danger, the pilot crashed into the mountain before he realized his peril.
The Bedford Bulletin Virginia 1943-02-04
Transcriber's Note: If you have interest in this tragic crash please take the time to visit the following excellent site www.libertyhouseinn.com/b25crash/bb243.htm. It is a beautifully done site, and a great memorial to these five men who perished.