by Jim Allen
Editor, The Shelby Star
May 18, 1964
CLIFFSIDE—Residents of a
rural area one mile east of here brushed elbows with tragedy Saturday
afternoon but emerged from the experience with nothing more serious
than a few frayed nerve ends and a fire blackened hole in the earth.
REMAINS OF AN
AIR FORCE T-33 JET TRAINER
...Crash Occurred Within 60 Feet Of
An Occupied Dwelling
The tranquility of a peaceful, warm spring afternoon
was shattered in the vicinity of the Harvey Harrill home when a crewless
Air Force T-33 jet trainer screamed from the pale blue sky and crashed
into a sparsely wooded area, within 60 feet of the Harrill modest
The shattered craft immediately burst in flames.
Alert volunteer firemen and rescue squad personnel had the flames
under control within minutes of the crash.
The T-33's two man crew—Brig. Gen. Russie
E. Dougherty and Col. Robert A. Weir—parachuted to safety within
seconds and residents of the area had their attention attracted to
the sky by two muffled explosions.
Two puffs of black smoke shot from the craft before
shocked residents of the area saw General. Dougherty and Colonel Weir
ejected from the crippled plane.
THE FACTS--Bobby Joe Hamrick, left
of Route 1, Mooresboro, was the first man to reach the airmen
who ejected from the crippled jet which crashed near Cliffside.
He's telling his unusual story here to Daily Star Editor Jim Allen,
back to camera. Looking at the photographer at right is Harvey
Harrill, the man who owns the home near which the jet crashed
Both men were rushed to Rutherford County Hospital
in Rutherfordton., where their injuries were described as painful
but not serious. An air Force C-131 from Andrews Air Force Base at
Washington, D.C. flew the two injured officers from Spartanburg Memorial
airport to Washington Sunday afternoon.
Air Force officials at Warner Robins, Ga. reported
late Saturday that the two officers were based at Andrews Air Force
Base, had refueled at Robins and were en route to Washington when
the plane caught fire.
An Air Force team from Shaw Air Force Base at Sumter,
S.C. was flown to Cliffside by helicopter late Saturday to inspect
the crash site.
The most graphic, first-hand account of what occurred
between the two airborne explosions and crash near Harrill's home
was supplied by Bobby Joe Hamrick of route 1, Mooresboro.
Hamrick was the first man to reach the injured Colonel
Weir and was covered with blood as he told his story.
Hamrick was fishing at Mt. Pleasant lake when the
two explosions attracted his attention and he looked up to see the
two officers ejecting.
He said he watched their descent for a moment before
scooping up his fishing gear and running toward the area where the
men eventually landed.
Hamrick reached Colonel Weir first and found him
dangling in a tree only inches away from a Duke Power Co. power line.
“Just as I ran up,” Harrrick told the
reporter at the crash scene, “the man in the tree said, 'Thank
God I missed that power line.'” With that said, the airman,
who was bleeding profusely around his arms and shoulders, released
himself from the parachute harness and dropped to the ground.
One of the first things he did, according to Hamrick,
was to ask assistance in stopping the flow of blood. Rescue squad
personnel arrived about that time and Hamrick said while they were
assisting the injured man toward an ambulance, he paled and supplied
his name, rank and home base for use “just in case I pass out.”
The other officer was found on the ground in a sparsely
wooded area about a quarter of a mile away.
Harrill still visibly shaken several hours after
the crash, explained that he and his family were inside their home
when, “We heard this noise like something frying on the stove.
Right behind that he heard what sounded like two crates of dynamite
Harrill says he rushed to the front of the house
and looked out to see “the biggest fire I have ever seen.”
Reprinted with permission from The Shelby
Star. Copyright owned by The Shelby Star. Clipping provided
by Sam Davis.