MARSHALL UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL TEAM CRASH
N 38° 22.497 W 082° 34.793
17S E 361995 N 4248599
Quick Description: Site of the November 17, 1970 plane crash of the Marshall University football team. 75 died. No survivors.
Location: West Virginia, United States
Date Posted: 11/12/2005 10:42:12 AM
Waymark Code: WM3MV
It was a rainy, windy night, and none of the crew members had ever landed at Tri-State Airport, which is located on a tabletop plateau close to the Kentucky-West Virginia-Ohio border. At 7:42 p.m., as it was about to land, the plane clipped the tops of the trees west of Runway 11 and crashed into an Appalachian hillside with a full load of fuel. Onboard the plane were 37 players, 25 supporters, eight coaches and five crew members. None of them survived the fiery crash, the worst ever involving an American sports team. One of the victims was sportscaster Gene Morehouse, who was also the school's sports-information director and the father of six children.
75 on Football Team Plane Die in West Virginia Crash
This is the UPI article which appeared in many U. S. newspapers on Nov. 15, 1970. The headline above is the one which appeared in the New York Times, which used this article.
HUNTINGTON, W. Va. -- A chartered airliner, carrying the Marshall University football team and coaching staff and state civic leaders and legislators, crashed and burned in light fog and rain tonight near the Tri-State Airport in the Appalachian Mountains.
The authorities said all 75 persons aboard were killed.
The plane, a twin-jet DC-9 owned by Southern Airways in Atlanta, was in communication with the airport until just before the crash at about 7:40 P. M., after a 40-minute flight from North Carolina, where the Marshall team played an afternoon game.
Control tower officials said that "everything was perfectly normal and there was no indication of trouble."
The death toll was the highest this year in an airplane accident in the United States. All of the fatal airliner crashes this year were on charter or non-scheduled flights; none occurred in commercial scheduled flights.
It was the nation's third airliner accident -- the second this year -- involving a college football team. Thirty-one persons, including 14 Wichita State University players, were killed last Oct. 2 when their plane crashed in the Colorado Rockies. In 1960, a plane crash in Toledo, Ohio, killed 22 persons, including 16 members of the California State Polytechnic College team.
The DC-9, which has twin jets on either side of the tail assembly, can carry 95 passengers.
The civic leaders and legislators aboard the plane were members of a boosters' club composed of prominent citizens who helped the football team financially. A spokesman for the university said members of the club who were on the plane included six prominent physicians.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane carried 70 passengers, a crew of four and a baggage handler.
The pilot was making an approach to the airport Runway 11 when the crash occurred about 7:40 P. M., after a 40-minute flight from Kinston, N. C. The Marshall team had played East Carolina College at Greenville, N. C., and lost, 17-14.
There was a 300-foot ceiling and visibility was five miles, the aviation agency said.
The plane came down about a mile and a half from the airport, near a point where Interstate 64 crosses the Big Sandy River into Kentucky. The Appalachians rise to a height of about 1,000 feet in the area.
Mrs. Don Bailey, a resident of the area, said: "I heard the plane overhead. Then it made a funny sound. I went to the back porch and saw a streak of fire and then an explosion. My house shook. Then it seemed like there was nothing but fire in the sky."
Mrs. Bailey's husband added, "I don't see how anybody could have gotten out of that plane."
Steve Stanley, an air traffic control specialist at the airport, said he was on the field "taking a breather" when the crash occurred.
"I saw a large ball of fire, an explosion, about two miles from Runway 11," Mr. Stanley said.
Other eyewitnesses reported that the plane struck the top of a hill, skidded down into a valley and exploded.
State Trooper W. F. Donohoe, one of nine state policemen at the crash scene, said the wreckage still burned two hours after the crash.
A spokesman for Marshall University, which has an enrollment of 9,100, said the plane carried 37 football players, members of the coaching staff, a West Virginia State Assemblyman, a Huntington television station sportscaster and member of the Big Green Boosters Club. The Marshall team's nicknames are Thundering Herd and Big Green.
John Ontague, East Carolina's athletic director, said that Marshall's athletic director, Charles Kautz, and the university's head football coach, Rick Tolley, were aboard the plane, which left Kinston at 6:38 P. M.
The Marshall team, depleted because of a recent recruiting scandal and Mid-American Conference suspension, opened the season with a 40-man squad. Only about a half-dozen players were from West Virginia. Others were from Florida, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio and New Jersey.
Marshall was placed on probation by the National Collegiate Athletic Association because of recruiting methods and alleged payments to players. The players mentioned in the alleged irregularities dropped out of school or transferred to other schools. The team had three victories and six losses this year.
Marshall University, which is located in Huntington in the tri-state region where West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky meet, is more familiar to sports fans for its basketball teams than its football teams.
The school was founded in 1837, two years after the death of Chief Justice John Marshall of the United States.
Web Address for Related Web Sites: [Web Link]
Date of Crash: 11/17/1970
Aircraft Model: DC-9
Military or Civilian: Civilian
Cause of Crash:
Inclement weather. Pilot clipped trees, sent plane (fully loaded with fuel) into a nosedive where it exploded upon impact.
Tail Number: Not listed
Only log waymarks if you have visited the site personally.