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The McKinney, KY B-58 Plane Crash, Dec.12, 1966
Part I: Author learns and begins investigation of story of crash from Alan Reed, an eye witness to the aftermath on that December evening, when one of the world's first supersonic bombers crashed, at the height of the Cold War, interrupting area residents while they watched an episode of The Big Valley.
Click on headline for story plus photo(s) Click on B-58 Memorial.com for Chris Bennett website with audio interviews by Alan W. Reed
By Chris Bennett
On a Saturday morning in the spring of 2011, Alan Reed and I were having breakfast together. This is something we do often, but this morning was special. Alan told me about an experience he had when he was 13 years old. It seems that when "Mr. Radio" was a youth growing up in Casey County, he was infatuated with electronic gizmos and the process of radio. He started hanging out at the local radio station so much they put him to work as a Sunday button pusher.
Young Alan was there on the night of December 12, 1966 when the station got a call about a plane crash on Short Pike, near McKinney, in Lincoln County. The young journalist rushed to the area with his older colleagues. At the crash site they found chaos, like a scene out of a movie.
The Kentucky State Police had started trying to take control of the area. Alan was able to get in because he was with "reporters" from the local radio station. Alan said they had only been there for a short time when some one yelled, "the plane may have been carrying a nuclear device." Alan said at once people began leaving the scene in a hurried fashion. He remembered seeing all the flashlights bouncing down the hillside toward the cars parked below.
Alan says that when he was growing up the United States Air Force constantly flew over this area of Kentucky. Residents often saw huge B-52s along with supersonic aircraft performing training exercises, at low levels, often at night, and at very high speeds. Alan also said he had thought about the plane crash many times as he verified his position on the aeronautical chart over McKinney in his Cessna or Piper aircraft, making his way from the Columbia airport to the Richmond, KY airport.
We decided to visit the site, so we hopped in a car and drove in the general direction of the crash site. We were also working on research concerning a secret project involving the Green River, and a boat, and a journey. When we got to the Middleburg Dam (PHOTO) on the Green River we stopped. I took a few photos of the dam, while Alan asked directions to the crash site, as he had not been to the area in a car since the night of the crash. He also got reacquainted with a feller he hadn't seen in some years. (They all knew Alan by his voice, "Mr. Radio" has dang near celebrity status in a this part of Kentucky.)
We drove over to Short Pike and tried to find the site of the plane crash, but it was not marked. We then proceeded to go house to house asking the locals about the location. Several of the younger people had heard about the crash, but didn't know the precise location. Finally, we went to the home of an older Gentleman and he told us exactly where the crash had taken place. Alan had thought there would be some type of marker since three men had died in the crash, but it seemed to be an almost forgotten part of the local history.
When we got home I had to work on a college assignment, but I started getting these emails from Alan. He found out the Plane was a B-58, the world's first super sonic bomber. He also found an email address of a man who claimed to be the son of the pilot of the McKinney plane. Alan emailed him, then they spoke on the phone, Alan gave him my email address also, we exchanged emails. I started doing some historical research on the plane, and the crash. Rob Blakeslee, the Pilot's son sent us a package of materials about the crash, and stated that he hoped some day to get a marker erected at the crash location.
(See PHOTO: USAF B-58 Hustler courtesy of the USAF and the Library of Congress)
Being somewhat naive, I told Rob that we could get a marker put up at the crash site location. I called the Department of Veteran's affairs; then I called the Air Force. I called everyone I could think of about the marker, no one was willing to help. In desperation I called my friends at the Kentucky Historical Society, I got voicemail so I left a message. I then emailed them, but still didn't hear anything back. Finally I got the email address of the Program coordinator for the Kentucky Historical Marker Program, I emailed her, she immediately responded with an application package that had instructions on how to get a historical marker erected.
(Click to see PHOTO of A Kentucky Historical Marker much like the one we are trying to erect at the crash site near McKinney)
We were set! The only problem was we had to pay for the marker at a cost of $2,300.00. To be honest $ 2,300.00 isn't a lot of money in today dollars, its only 23 tanks of gas, but we are in the middle of "The Great Recession," so I was unsure about raising the dollars needed for the project. Alan and I discussed the marker with Rob, the son of the pilot and he was onboard.
In June Rob, and his younger sisters Diane and Alison, drove up from Florida. We met them at McKinney to discuss the project. Darrell Hovious, a Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, and an eyewitness to the crash also came down to meet with us at the diner in McKinney. We had breakfast together and discussed the crash, and how it affected their family.
Darrell told us how he was watching "The Big Valley" on television with his parents when they heard the explosion, and their power went off. His mother exclaimed at the sound of the crash "It must be the Russians attacking!" Remember this happened on December 12, 1966, during the high water mark of the Cold War. (We later learned that other neighbors came to the crash site with guns, ready to fight the Commies!)
The Hovious family got into their Rambler station wagon and drove to the site where they did not find an atomic bomb nor an exploding gas main as other residents had thought, but they did find the remains of an Air Force Jet. There was a deceased Airman still strapped in his ejection seat that every one mistakenly believed to be the pilot.The truth of the matter was there were three men in the airplane and only one had time to eject. Because of the way the plane was designed the man sitting farthest back had to eject first, (Defense Systems operator) next the middleman, (Navigator) and then the front man (Pilot) could eject. Darrell stated that the parachute of the officer was not fully opened. He then said the sight of the dead airman disturbed him deeply. He became entangled in the parachute's cords as he made his way up the hill toward the flames coming from the 30 foot crater in the earth.
End of Part I
This story was posted on 2011-08-14 13:47:16
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