October 20, 1977 The Plane Went Down

Discussion in 'The GatorTail Pub' started by GatorGrowl, Oct 20, 2013.

  1. GatorGrowl
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    Gillsburg Plane Crash Kills Six,
    Hurts 20 Including Rock Singers
    A twin-engine airplane, apparently out of fuel, crashed before 7p.m. Thursday in a wooded area of Amite County near Gillsburg. Six persons including the lead singer of the rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed and 20 were injured.

    The propeller-driven Convair 240 skidded across tree tops for about 100 yards, then slammed into a swampy area and split open about eight miles short of McComb Airport after reporting it was having fuel trouble or was running low on fuel", an Air Traffic Controller reported.

    The dead included lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and vocalist Cassie Gaines, Gaines sister, medical authorities said. Pilot Walter Wiley McCreary and co-pilot William John Gray, both of Dallas Texas, and Dean Kilpatrick, assistant road manager for the group, also died officials said. Six other members of the hard rock band were injured, two hurt critically and four hospitalized in stable condition.

    The injured, some of them also in critical condition, included members of the group's road crew and a cameraman, said officials of Southwest Mississippi Medical Center.

    The chartered plane owned by L&J Co. of Addison Texas, came down on its nose southwest of McComb, twisting the cockpit to the left, and threw seven or eight persons to the ground when it split open at about the middle of the fuselage, it was believed.

    The impact, which triggered no fire, tossed other passengers toward the front of the aircraft. "They were all in front of the plane and they were all shouting, get me out, get me, get me." said Constable Gerrald Wall. "We were actually standing on people to get others out". Johnny Mote, who lives near the crash site close to the Mississippi-Louisiana border, said the plane "sounded like a car skidding in gravel" as it clipped the trees. "When it hit the ground it was a deep rumble, like it was underground. It sounded like wrinkling metal" he said.

    The group was en route from a Wednesday night performance in Greenville South Carolina to a Friday night concert before an expected crowd of 10,000 persons at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The plane had passed McComb when it reported that it was having fuel trouble, and was told by the Houston Texas flight center to turn around and land at McComb, said Everett Fairly, an air traffic controller at McComb.

    "I tried to call them, but we couldn't raise them, and Houston reported it had lost radar and radio contact", Fairly said. A spokesman for the Federal Administration
    in Atlanta GA said the pilot had reported being low on fuel. Thick undergrowth hampered rescue operations and some emergency vehicles became stuck in the mud when they tried to drive through the woods to get close to the aircraft.

    Rescue crews were also hindered by a 20-foot wide, waist deep creek they had to cross to reach the plane. Pickup trucks and vans were used along with ambulances to carry the dead and injured to hospitals. A Southwest Medical Center spokesman said identification of the victims were complicated because passengers were apparently playing poker before the plane went down and had there wallets and identification papers out.

    Fairly said a small jet was landing at McComb at the time the plane was reported in difficulty and ask the jet pilot to fly over the area. "But it was very dark and the pilot said he could see nothing from the air," Fairly said.

    The plane came down near open pasture land, tearing off one of the wings and twisting the other. Recuers had to rip open the nose to get to victims. Two bulldozers were used to cut a path through the woods and brush from nearby Mississippi 568. Donald Chase who lives about five miles from the area, said he heard "that the plane was having engine trouble because it was sputtering." Mote said he was putting some hay out when three bloody survivors who had made their way through the woods called him for help.

    "One of them was hugging me around the neck and telling me, "We got to get them out." Mote estimated it took up to 3 1/2 hours to remove all the bodies from the plane. Michael White who lives in Gillsburg, said he and his family heard the engines of the airplane sputtering about 6:45pm. "I guess it crashed about 6:47pm" he said, but were unable to find the plane."I called the airport about 7:00pm," he said, but was told there was no plane in the area.

    The Pike County Civil Defense said the crash was reported to its office shortly before 7pm.

    Bad Place to Bring Plane Down
    Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center and other area emergency personnel practice periodically handling mock disasters.

    Last night, it was the real thing, and from the looks of the activity at the hospital the practice has paid off. Only thing, though, nobody had practiced removing 26 plane crash victims from a swampy patch of woods out from Gillsburg, across a creek to waiting ambulances. It took some three hours or more from the time the plane crashed to get the job done, but again, those whose jobs it is to do such things, carried out their duties with precision and skill and as much speed as possible under difficult situations.

    Bob Kirkfield, Enterprise-Journal advertising manager, and I arrived on the scene amid the rescue efforts. It was hard enough getting across the 20-foot wide creek carrying a camera. It obviously would have been harder carrying an injured person. We walked across a fallen tree. Some were fording the creek, a tributary of the Amite River.

    Persons going to the plane had to be careful not to step on the injured and dead who had been thrown or removed from the aircraft. At first it was thought the ambulances could go around another direction to get closer to the plane and avoid having to carry the victims across the creek. Later the decision was made
    to carry them across the stream.

    Two Civil Defense workers at the scene said , a sandbar was found crossing the stream and rescuers were able to carry stretchers across it without wading the water, however, they had to walk for more than a mile to get to the ambulances.

    Who's Lynyrd Skynyrd?
    Associated Press article & picture, just after plane crash in October 1977
    "We like to call ours "Southern Raunchy Roll" Ronnie Van Zant once said of his musical group Lynyrd Skynyrd.

    "The other bands are just as bad, but we go to jail more". Van Zant and his fightin' Southern band prided themselves on that battling image and a hard driving blaring sound which they rode to sold out concert tours and million selling albums.

    They had just begun a tour on the heels of a new album when a charted plane they were on went down near McComb Mississippi, thursday night en route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana from Greenville South Carolina.Van Zant, the groups lead vocalist and one of its founders, died along with guitarist Steve Gaines and his sister Cassie in the crash. All three were 28. Two other members, Gary Rossington another who helped form the group, and Leon Wilkeson were reported in critical condition after the crash. The other four members of the group were in stable condition.

    The band came from Jacksonville Florida in the early '70's with Ronnie Van Zant, Rossington and Allen Collins playing together in high school and adding other
    members later. That school Robert E. Lee, also allegedly produced their strangley spelled group name. It seems a physical education teacher named Leonard Skinner didn't cotton to long hair and loud music.

    A run-in with him helped get the boys suspended. Vowing to get even, they named there group after him, changing the vowels to avoid a lawsuit and becoming famous enough to make the story a rock legend. Lynyrd Skynyrd first hit national prominence in 1974 with a single called "Sweet Home Alabama" which exstolled the virtues of the South in general and Alabama in particular.

    A huge Confederate Flag became one of the bands symbols.

    The group went on to have two gold and three platinum albums and numerous runins with the law on tour. "Were kind of like an old dog that ain't housebroke" Van Zant said in a 1976 interview. "I don't know...born under a bad sign, I guess. The band's most recent hometown performance ended in an uproar with 16 persons getting arrested. Police later estimated that 15,000 persons took part in the disturbance at the Jacksonville Coliseum and caused $14,000 in damage.

    The band included Van Zant, Gaines, Rossington and Allen Collins guitarist; Leon Wilkeson bass; Billy Powell keyboardist; and Artimus Pyle drummer. Gaines sister and Leslie Hawkins were backup singers. All were from Florida except Pyle, from Spartanburg South Carolina, and the Gaineses were from Seneca Missouri. The bands million-sellers were "Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-erd", "Second Helping", and "One More From The Road".

    The bands latest album "Street Survivors" was released October 17 (1977)
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  2. GatorGrowl
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    Bob Burns, original drummer has some stuff on his FB Page this week

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    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/LFbnhzFMjkM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
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    Classmates and friends RIP
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    I am with you Growl!!
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    Sweet Home Alabama still rocks the house even roughly 40 years after it was recorded.
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    Great band. Another one of music's tragedies.
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    really tragic how many stars from all walks of music, from buddy holly through patsy cline and all others perish in plane crashes, far too many to name, but who else stands out for you?
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    What a waste, all because some dumbass didn't refuel the plane.
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    Jim Croce, Jim Reeves, Otis Redding.
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    Stevie Ray Vaughn. Not a plane but a helicopter.
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    Was actually at their last show at the Greenville (SC) Auditorium. Crashed the next day. Still have the ticket stub at the house, at least what is left of the torn stubb. I have not seen the band since.
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