Wedowee, AL Bomber Crashes, Sep 1945
Posted December 27th, 2009 by Stu Beitler
10 PERSONS DIE IN B-29 CRASH NEAR WEDOWEE.
THREE OTHERS INJURED BY DEBRIS FROM EXPLOSION SPLINTERED BOMBER.
BODIES OF DEAD NOT IDENTIFIED.
CHILDREN'S SHOES BLOWN OFF FEET BY FORCE OF DETONATION.
Smoldering wreckage and twisted pieces of steel and machinery scattered over cornfields and woodlands about seven miles south of Wedowee was all that was left yesterday of a B-29, which was believed to be flying out of the Gulfport, Miss., Army Air Field and crashed near Highway 37 between Wedowee and Roanoke at 7:45 Friday night killing at least ten persons who were in the plane and injuring three others in a nearby house which was hit by a flying piece of the bomber.
Bodies of the bomber crew, some of which were hurled several hundred yards from the crash, were reported to have been torn beyond recognition, and the dead had not been identifed yesterday. Investigators believed they had pieced together ten bodies.
MRS. ETHEL MURPHY, wife of BASIL MURPHY, CHARLOTTE WOODRUFF, her sister, and JOHN HEATH, a colored boy, who live near the scene of the crash were in the Roanoke hospital yesterday for treatment of injuries received when a piece of the bomber crashed through the roof into the bedroom of the home of BASIL MURPHY and exploded, tearing through the walls of the room and hurling wreckage all over the house.
MRS. LOIS WOODRUFF, the mother of MRS. ETHEL MURPHY and MISS CHARLOTTE WOODRUFF, who lives in the BASIL MURPHY home, stated yesterday that her daughters were at the time of the crash in a living room across the hall from the bedroom into which the B-29 part fell. They heard an explosion and ran into the hall, because they knew some of the WOODRUFF children were in the back of the house.
"The explosion blew the shoes off of ETHEL'S feet, and the girls were hit and knocked to the floor by flying pieces of wood and buried under the wreck." MRS. WOODRUFF said. "ETHEL got out first and pulled CHARLOTTE out."
The WOODRUFF children to whom the two victims were trying to make their way were unhurt. CHARLOTTE WOODRUFF was reported as improving at the hospital today; MRS. ETHEL MURPHY, who was pregnant, was reported in critical condition.
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JOHN HEATH, brother of a servant in the MURPHY house, was just outside the house at the time of the crash and was seriously burned in the explosion.
The MURPHY home was in a state of complete wreckage yesterday; a piece of the bomber, believed to be the radio, was still in the middle of the bedroom floor; broken timber cluttered the bedroom and the hall beyond it. MRS. WOODRUFF said that the bomber piece had exploded after it crashed into the house and hurled "burning black liquid all over everything."
According to MARY LIZE HEATH, servant in the MURPHY home and sister of JOHN HEATH, the bomber was in flames before it hit the ground. She was walking between the house and a shed in the backyard when the crash came.
"I saw it coming, and it was all on fire," she said yesterday, her eyes still wide with horror. "It was in three pieces and I thought it was going to get me but I ran and got away from it."
Other eye witnesses, however, stated that they believed the plane did not catch fire until after it hit the ground. Lee Knight and Guy Seymore, who live about a half a mile down the road from the MURPHY house, stated that they saw the plane fly over almost touching the tree tops and barely missing the nearby house of Shelby Abner.
"We could tell that something was the matter; the plane was over on its side and it didn't sound right. In a minute we heard the explosion," Knight said.
The bomber, according to eyewitness accounts, came in from the nroth, circled back around and came over again from the west before it crashed into a cornfield.
There was no one spot yesterday which could have been called the center of the wreckage; small parts, none of them larger than a piece of the engine, were strewn over an area of cornfields, cotton fields, and woodlands which, according to the State Highway Patrol covered almost 20 acres. Parts of the bomber were still smoldering yesterday afternoon among the tombstones of a cemetery near the road.
MRS. WOODRUFF said that pieces of some of the bodies were thrown within a few yards of the MURPHY home. One body was hurled through a fence separating the MURPHY yard from a cotton field.
"There was one body out there without any head and without any legs," said Mary Lize Heath.
Seymore and Knight reported that they had run up to the scene of the crash when they heard the explosion and had seen "broken arms and legs and pieces of people all over everywhere."
According to investigators, one half-open parachute was found near one of the bodies, indicating that at least one of the bomber crew had attempted to jump but had been too low for his parachute to open.
The Army and the Highway Patrol were still investigating the wreckage yesterday afternoon.
The Anniston Star Alabama 1945-09-09
Partial List of Fatalities:
DONALD M. COULTER.
ROBERT T. HAUMAN.
RICHARD G. JEFFERSON.
Corp. RALPH F. KELLER.
ROBERT C. SEILKOP.
Lieut. ROBERT C. SEILKOP.