Brushy Mountain, VA Audie Murphy Killed In Plane Crash, June 1971
MURPHY DEATH PLANE PILOT MAY HAVE HIT THICK FOG.
Roanoke, Va. (AP) -- The pilot of the small plane that crashed killing World War II hero AUDIE MURPHY and five others may suddenly have found himself flying in thick fog only minutes after receiving a favorable weather report, federal investigators said Tuesday.
A team of investigators pawed through pieces of burned and twisted metal brought back Tuesday from the ridges of Brushy Mountain near here. It was there that the plane carrying the hero-turned-actor and the others slammed to earth Friday.
JOSEPH E. ZACKO, head of the National Transportation Safety Board team, said he was unable to say immediately what caused the crash, which occurred 3,000 feet above Roanoke Valley.
The last contact with the plane was made by the flight service station at Roanoke's Woodrum Airport. A flight service spokesman said Tuesday that the pilot of the plane had been told that Roanoke's weather was safe for visual flying with a ceiling of 1,000 feet and visibility of three miles.
But, ZACKO said, all other airports in the area were reporting limited visibility and, on the mountain ridges where the plane crashed, visibility was near zero with light rain and fog.
The flight service said the plane was not attempting to use Woodrum's approach control or instrument landing facilities at the time of the crash.
ZACKO said investigators had found no evidence that the plane had received structural damage before the crash.
Pathologists were still working of formal confirmation of identities of the six bodies recovered from the charred wreckage, but relatives waiting to claim the bodies said two had been identified.
These were passengers CLAUDE CROSBY, 48, of Atlanta and KIM DODY, 29, of Ft. Collins, Colo. LINCOLN CARLE, a business associate of the 46-year-old MURPHY, confirmed that identification of the actor's body had been made by two close friends.
CARLE said MURPHY'S body would be flown to Atlanta Tuesday night and then on Wendesday to Los Angeles. He said services would be held in Los Angeles Friday with a full military service at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday.
Others aboard the Aero Commander aircraft were pilot HERMAN BUTLER of Denver, Colo., and businessmen JACK LITTLETON of Ft. Collins and RAYMOND PRATER of Chattanooga, Tenn.
All the bodies were badly mangled or burned.
MRS. DAVID CROSBY, a relative of one of the victims, said relatives were having difficulty getting the Virginia State Medical Examiner's office to release the bodies and give positive identifications.
MRS. CROSBY, of Winston-Salem, N. C., said her brother-in-law CLAUDE CROSBY'S body was taken to a funeral home from the hospital. She said the medical examiners refused for a time to tell her where the body had been taken.
GLENN DODY, father of one of the victims, said he was asked if he wanted to try to identify his son's body.
"I didn't go in," he said, "I told them I didn't want that haunting me the rest of my life."
MURPHY, the most decorated American soldier of World War II and winner of the Medal of Honor, was flying with the businessmen to look over the operations of a Modular Management plant at Martinsville, Va.
The plane left Atlanta, Ga., Friday morning, but was not reported missing for 48 hours because the pilot had not filed a flight plan.
MURPHY, whose baby face and nasal Texas drawl won him postwar fame as an actor, won his Medal of Honor when he mounted a burning tank filled with explosives and, using a 50-caliber machine gun, held off German troops advancing on him from three sides.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, MURPHY won the Distinguished Service Cross, the Legion of Merit, the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star and the Croix de Guerre.
MURPHY received a battlefield commission, rise to the rank of first lieutenant by the end of the war and was commended for having killed 240 Nazi soldiers.
Abilene Reporter-News Texas 1971-06-02
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!