02/23/09 508 W, 1 I - + 17 - 17 Military Plane Crash at Raleigh-Durham Airport, 1953

Just before midnight on January 2, 1953, an Army C-47 transport plane crashed in Crabtree Park while attempting an emergency landing at Raleigh-Durham Airport. The weather was raining with dense fog. Three of the four crew members were killed. The fourth member survived, T-Sgt. Edward Matus, who walked to the airport, arriving at the Eastern Airlines office at 1:00 a.m. He followed the "sounds of airplanes taking off." He was rushed to Duke Hospital. The crash was the first fatal airplane accident "since the airport came under civilian operation in 1946."

The plane was flying a "routine training flight" from Stewart Air Force Base, in Newburg, NY, to Donaldson Air Force Base, in Greenville, S.C, with a stop at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville. They attempted a landing a Pope, but "visibility there was zero." They diverted to Raleigh-Durham, where visibility "was about a one-quarter of a mile." Their last radio contact with Pope was at 10:41 p.m., when the crew reported "icing at 9,000 feet."

Matus remembered being struck and falling to the floor in the plane, then waking up in the wreckage. He followed the sounds of airplanes to the airport. "Bleeding profusely despite a crude tourniquet," the survivor stumbled into the nearly empty office. He was "pale with shock and dazed." He couldn't tell from which direction he had come. He was treated at the hospital for "shock and multiple cuts."

Wikipedia Photo

The 100-person search party included "police, Civil Air Patrol officials, and Air Force investigators." After hours of searching, Highway Patrol officers were sent to the hospital, to retrieve one of the survivor's shoes. The lawmen also procured bloodhounds from the "Cary prison farm." They attempted, though unsuccessfully, to retrace the survivor's steps. None of the residents of the area reported hearing a plane crash.

Six hours after they started, a 25-member search party located the wreckage and the bodies of the pilot, co-pilot, and navigator. The plane had crashed in thick woods, some 1,000 yards from the park's picnic area. The wings were sheared by the trees, and the tail section separated. The area "reeked of high-octane gasoline" but there was no fire, as the pilot had cut power. The plane's gear was down. The wreckage was "less than two miles from the airport's control tower."

The dead airmen were Capt. Louis R. Gossman, pilot, First Lt. Norman W. Joyce, co-pilot, both of Donaldson Air Force Base, and First Lt. Robert W. Shaw, of Pope Air Force Base. The area was subsequently secured, though "crowds of curious persons" had converged on the wreckage earlier, "picking up souveniers from the broken parts of the plane." Cars also jammed the gate at the park entrance, and caused traffic problems on the highway. The process of moving the wreckage started on January 4.

Sources: Raleigh Times, January 3, 1953; News & Observer, January 4, 5, 1953.

I found this 1953 military crash information on your site. The pilot of the military plane was my Uncle Louis. Is there anymore information that I could find or a source that I could find documents, pictures, reports regarding the crash? Thanks
carole collett (Email) - 10/05/10 - 17:21

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