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1977 Mississippi CV-240 crash

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Convair 240 N55VM crash
Convair-240-color.jpg
A Convair CV-240 similar to the accident aircraft
Accident
DateOctober 20, 1977
18:52 (CST)
SummaryFuel exhaustion due to pilot error
SiteHeavily-wooded swamp, Amite County, Mississippi,
five miles (8 km) northeast
of Gillsburg
31°04′19″N 90°35′56″W / 31.072°N 90.599°W / 31.072; -90.599[1]:3
Aircraft
Aircraft typeConvair CV-240[2]
OperatorL & J Company of
Addison, Texas
RegistrationN55VM
Flight originGreenville Downtown Airport (South Carolina)
StopoverMcComb-Pike County Airport, Pike County, Mississippi (emergency attempt)
DestinationBaton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (Louisiana)
Occupants26
Passengers24
Crew2
Fatalities6
Survivors20
1977 Mississippi CV-240 crash is located in the United States
crash site
crash site
Greenville
Greenville
Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge

On October 20, 1977, a Convair CV-240 passenger aircraft ran out of fuel and crashed in a wooded area near Gillsburg, Mississippi. Chartered by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd from L&J Company of Addison, Texas, it was near the end of its flight from Greenville, South Carolina, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.[3][4]

Lead vocalist/founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines (Steve's older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and co-pilot William Gray all died as a result of the crash; 20 others survived.[5]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash Story
  • ✪ Lynyrd Skynyrd - October 20, 1977
  • ✪ RONNIE VAN ZANT - WikiVidi Documentary
  • ✪ Ronnie Van Zant

Transcription

Contents

Crash

On October 20, 1977, three days after releasing their album Street Survivors, Lynyrd Skynyrd performed at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, South Carolina, and boarded a Convair CV-240 airplane to take them to Baton Rouge, where they were to perform at Louisiana State University. The plane ran out of fuel near the end of the flight.[2][6]

Upon realizing that the plane had insufficient fuel, the pilots attempted to navigate to McComb Airport, about 10 miles northeast of the eventual crash site, but soon realized that the plane wouldn't make it. As a last resort, they attempted an emergency landing in an open field about 300 yards from where the plane eventually went down.[7] Despite their efforts, at approximately 6:47 PM the plane skimmed about 100 yards along the top of the tree line before smashing into a large tree and splitting into pieces near Gillsburg, Mississippi.

Early in the flight, witnesses recall that vocalist Ronnie Van Zant was lying on the floor with a pillow as he nursed a mild hangover. Several other passengers passed the time by playing cards. At some point the passengers became aware that something was wrong, and drummer Artimus Pyle recalls entering the cabin and being told by a terrified pilot Walter McCreary to go back and strap himself in. With the gravity of the situation clear, the band sat in silence, praying. Guitarist Gary Rossington recalls hearing what sounded like hundreds of baseball bats hitting the plane's fuselage as it began striking trees. The sound got louder and louder until Rossington was knocked unconscious; he awoke some time later on the ground with the plane's door on top of him.[8] Lead singer/founding member Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary, and copilot William Gray all died in the crash.[2][3][4] Most of the survivors had been seated toward the back of the plane.[7] The survivors, all of whom were seriously injured, were transported to different hospitals for treatment and were not immediately aware of the fatalities. Days later, Rossington was informed in hospital by his mother that Van Zant had been killed.[8]

Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977
Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977

Cassie Gaines had been so fearful of flying in the Convair that she had preferred to travel in the band's cramped equipment truck instead, but Van Zant convinced her to board the plane on October 20.[9] Keyboard player Billy Powell's nose was nearly torn off as he suffered severe facial lacerations and deep lacerations to his right leg. Decades later, Powell gave an account of the flight's final moments on a VH1 Behind The Music special. He said Van Zant, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown violently from his seat and died immediately when his head impacted a tree as the plane broke apart. Some elements of Powell's version of the events, however, have been disputed by both drummer Artimus Pyle and Van Zant's widow Judy Van Zant Jenness, who posted the autopsy reports on the band's web site in early 1998, while confirming other aspects of Powell's account.[10] Pyle suffered broken ribs but managed to leave the crash site and notify a nearby resident.[6]

Another member of the band's trio of back-up singers (collectively known as the "Honkettes"), JoJo Billingsley, was not on the plane, as she was under a doctor's care in Senatobia, Mississippi, dealing with health problems brought about by drug and alcohol abuse.[11] She planned on re-joining the tour in Little Rock, Arkansas, on October 23.[12] Billingsley said that she had dreamed of the plane crash and begged guitarist and founding member Allen Collins by telephone not to continue using the Convair.[9] The band's ex-guitarist Ed King said later that he "always knew it wasn't gonna end well" for Lynyrd Skynyrd due to their penchant for drinking and brawling, but he could never have envisioned it ending the way it did, and recalls being overcome with sadness upon learning of the crash.[13]

It was later discovered that the very same aircraft had earlier been inspected by members of Aerosmith's flight crew for possible use in their 1977 American tour, but it was rejected because it was felt that neither the plane nor the crew were up to standards. Aerosmith's assistant chief of flight operations, Zunk Buker, told of observing pilots McCreary and Gray sharing a bottle of Jack Daniel's while he and his father inspected the plane.[14] Aerosmith's touring family were quite shaken after receiving word of the crash, as Steven Tyler and Joe Perry had pressured their management into renting that specific plane for use on their tour.[15]

The doomed flight of October 20, 1977 was intended to be the last Lynyrd Skynyrd would make on the Convair CV-240. "We were flying in a plane that looked like it belonged to the Clampett family," said Pyle, and the band had decided that their status as one of the world's top rock acts warranted an upgrade. After arriving in Baton Rouge, the band planned on acquiring a Learjet to replace the 30-year-old plane, which all in the band's circle agreed was well past its prime.[16]

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of this accident was fuel exhaustion and total loss of power from both engines due to crew inattention to fuel supply. Contributing to the fuel exhaustion were inadequate flight planning and an engine malfunction of undetermined nature in the right engine which resulted in "torching" and higher-than-normal fuel consumption.

—NTSB Accident Report[1]

Rescue

Rescuers had to cross a 20-foot-wide, waist-deep creek and dig through an overgrown forest, while digging out rescue vehicles that got stuck in the mud.[17] Locals worked with rescue officials and drove victims to the hospital in the back of pick-up trucks. One local resident recalled, "I found someone on the ground alive. When I walked to the other side of the plane, I tripped on another person."[7]

Another resident commended the actions of all those who helped, and highlighted that, "Some of them were out on that highway directing traffic. Some of them went home and got tractors. My wife was home on a CB radio. I'm relaying messages on CB to her, 10 miles away."[7]

Cause

Powell, among others, spoke of seeing flames shooting out of the plane's right engine during a flight just days before the crash. The subsequent NTSB report listed "an engine malfunction of undetermined nature" in that same engine as a contributing factor in the crash [1] Pyle told Howard Stern years later in an interview that the fuel gauge in the older-model plane was known to malfunction and the pilots had neglected to manually check the tanks before taking off. In his 2003 book Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock, Gene Odom, a bodyguard for Van Zant [18] who was on board the plane and survived the crash, comes to the conclusion that pilot Gray was potentially impaired and had been observed using cocaine the previous evening;[19] however, toxicology reports from both pilots' autopsies found no traces of alcohol or other drugs.[1] "Crew inattention to fuel supply" was ultimately determined to be responsible for the crash.[1]

After the accident, the NTSB removed, inspected, and tested the right engine's ignition magneto and found it to be operating normally, concluding, "No mechanical or electrical discrepancies were found during the examination of the right magneto."[1] The inspection also determined that, "All of the fuel cross-feed and fuel dump valves were in the closed position."[1]

The accident Report records that the aircraft was both owned and operated by L & J Company,[1] but the lease to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s production company specified that Lynyrd Skynyrd was the operator[1] and therefore was responsible for regulatory compliance (including managing the flight crew).[1] The flight crew were employed by a third party,[1] and the lease period was three weeks.[1] The Report records the FAA as taking legal action against L&J in relation to the operator responsibility,[1] and the Analysis section concludes with a discussion of the safety problem of “how does the system in such a case protect a lessee who is uninformed either by design, by inadvertence, or by his own carelessness”.[1]

Legacy

The band's record label MCA replaced the album cover of the Street Survivors album as it showed the band surrounded by flames.[20] The site of the crash has turned into a memorial for fans, rescuers and survivors with an oak tree that has been carved with Lynyrd Skynyrd iconography; the site was also the location of a 40th anniversary memorial by survivors and rescuers.[7]

In 2017, surviving members of the band and family of those that died in the crash filed a lawsuit to block production and distribution of a film entitled Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash. The dispute stemmed from a "blood oath" by survivors, reportedly taken after the crash, to never use the name Lynyrd Skynyrd again in an effort not to capitalize on the tragedy that had befallen the group.[21] The movie was finally released 1 Dec 2017.[22]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Aircraft Accident Report – L & J Company, Convair 248, N55VM, Gillsburg, Mississippi, October 20, 1977" (PDF). U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. June 19, 1978.
  2. ^ a b c "Aircraft accident Convair CV-240 N55VM Gillsburg, MS". Aviation Safety Network. June 19, 1978. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Gwinn, John (October 22, 1977). "Why did plane run out of fuel?". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. (South Carolina). p. B1.
  4. ^ a b "Rock band leader, five others killed in charter plane crash". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). UPI. October 21, 1977. p. 3A.
  5. ^ "Airplane crash kills members of rock band". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). Associated Press. October 21, 1977. p. 8.
  6. ^ a b Pat Adams; Jaquelyn Cooper (October 20, 2017). "The Tragic Plane Crash that Happened on October 20, 1977 in Gillsburg Mississippi". TennesseeConcerts.com. Archived from the original on December 25, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e "The night Lynyrd Skynyrd fell from the sky". The Clarion Ledger. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  8. ^ a b If I Leave Here Tomorrow: A Film About Lynyrd Skynyrd, Passion Pictures, Directed by Stephen Kijak, 2018
  9. ^ a b Brant 2002, p. 151.
  10. ^ Brant 2002, p. 155.
  11. ^ Luc Brunot (2008). "JoJo Billingsley Lynyrd Skynyrd - Alias". sweethomemusic.fr. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  12. ^ Brant 2002, p. 147.
  13. ^ The Ray Shasho Show, BBS Radio 1 Network, 2016
  14. ^ Davis 1997, p. 304.
  15. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd's Plane Crashes in Rural Mississippi". Mississippi Memories. Retrieved November 25, 2017.
  16. ^ Jordan Runtagh. "Remembering Lynyrd Skynyrd's Deadly 1977 Plane Crash". Rolling Stone, October 20, 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017.
  17. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash was 35 years ago". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  18. ^ "Late Lynyrd Skynyrd Members to Join Oklahoma Hall of Fame". Billboard.
  19. ^ Odom, Gene (October 1, 2003). "10 - Reflections and Renewal". Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock. Broadway Books. p. 184. ISBN 0-7679-1027-3.
  20. ^ "The legacy of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 40 years after plane crash tragedy". Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  21. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd Members Head to Trial Over Plane Crash Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-08-23.
  22. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6744988/releaseinfo

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 10 November 2019, at 15:59
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