Three men were killed and one man miraculously escaped death when a C-47 transport plane crashed about five miles southwest of Eielson base at 10:05 last night.
The big plane was making practice GCA landings when the tragedy occurred. A guard at one of the Eielson gates, who witnessed the crash, said that the plane burst into flames in the sky and plummeted to earth.
In less than an hour after the crash, the Tenth Air Rescue Squadron had one helicopter and a search C-47 in the vicinity of the crash. A C-47 search plane from Eielson also took to the air.
Helicopter Pilot Captain Lewis Erhart, accompanied by Wing Surgeon Lieut. Col. Robert Zerbe, made a daring night flight to the scene lof the crash. The pilot swooped low over the burning wreckage about 12 times, before the survivor was sighted.
"We Were playing an electric light on the wreckage when suddenly we
sighted one man laying on the ground and waving his arms at us," said Captain Erhart.
Landed in Trees
The helicopter immediately landed, by letting down through thick trees with the aid of the spotlight.
The crew members found that one man aboard the plane had apparently been hurled free as the aircraft crashed in flames. He was identified as Lieut. Francis J. Parnik, co-pilot of the ill-fated C-47.
Parnik had suffered both legs broken as he was thrown from the wreckage. However, in spite of the fact that he could scarcely move, the flier had managed to put
tourniquets on his legs to stop the flow of blood, and to build a fire of leaves to attract rescuers.
Flown to Eielson
He was immediately lashed to a litter on the outside of the helicopter and flown to Eielson, where he was treated, and pronounced to be in serious condition. From Eielson he Was flown to Ladd, and then to the air force hospical at Elmendorf air force base, near Anchorage.
He was conscious when found on the ground, and told rescuers that the plane had broken into flames. He seemed not to know that the others were dead, and apparently, believed they had bailed out. He was on the ground about one hour and 45 minutes awaiting rescue.
Meanwhile, back at Eielson, a round rescue crew was organized and equipped with bulldozers, jeeps and weasles. Led by Colonel Edward Moore, base commander, the group moved in to the site of the tragedy, and located the three bodies in the
wreckage. Later, Colonel Moore returned to the base by helicopter to arrange for the notifying of next of kin of the victims.
Survived by Wife
At least one man who perished was survived by a wife who lives in this area. Parnik, the survivor, also was married, and his wife accompanied him on the flight to the hospital in Anchorage.
Officials praised the daring and skill of helicopter pilot Captain Erhart. Flying an aircraft that was not fully equipped for night operations, he managed to make a perfect landing in midst of trees surrounding the wreckage, and pick up the lone survivor.
When daylight arrived, the helicopter and other rescue squadron search planes flew low over the crash area, in the hope that some of the crewmen of the ill-fated aircraft might have parachuted to safety, and could be sighted. But when the ground party arrived at the scene, they found that the other three men had perished.
Names of the two enlisted men and one officer who died in the wreckage were being withheld pending notification of next_of kin. All were stationed at the air base.