This article appeared in the Wilmington (NC) Star News, 12 Jun 2004. Reading the article, it appears to me that the writer is placing blame on PAI ("They didn't realize they weren't ready for the big jets"). If the article is incorrect, can someone more knowledgable than I please respond to it?
Flight 22: Memorial to be dedicated to victims of 1967 N.C. airline crash
By VICKY NEWMAN
It was July 1967. Media attention across the country was focused intently on an escalating war in a small country called Vietnam. But war coverage would be unseated with an unprecedented airline crash accident on July 19, 1967.
At precisely noon, a Piedmont Airlines Boeing 727-100 slammed into a Cessna 310, a small private plane, colliding in mid-air over remote Hendersonville, N.C. The crash killed all 82 people aboard both planes.
Soon Columbus was in mourning for three of its own citizens who happened to be aboard that fatal flight - Dudley Hutchinson Sr., Dudley Hutchinson Jr. and C.L. Hutcherson. All three men were en route to a Stokely/Van Camp convention at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs,. W.Va.
The Hutchinsons were longtime officials of the Columbus wholesale food company. Hutcherson was a new company employee who had worked in sales for about a month.
"I remember it - just like it was yesterday," says Betty Clyde Jones, Columbus businesswoman, owner of Gifts Etc., and the widow of Dudley Hutchinson Jr. "My husband was 28 and working for his dad. We had three young sons, and I had gone to Louisiana to stay with my parents while they were out of town. They contacted me in Louisiana ... Our company was completely wiped out."
The children of Jones and then-husband Dudley Hutchinson Jr. were all under age 5. They were Dudley Hutchinson III, now also deceased, Douglas Hutchinson, now of Flora, and Clyde Hutchinson of Millstadt, Ill.
Dudley Hutchinson Sr. left behind a bereft widow, Frances Hutchinson, now deceased, and two other sons - Max Hutchinson and John Hutchinson. John is now a minister in Great Falls, Va. Max is a cardiac specialist in Tupelo.
Hutcherson was survived by his wife, Lona, and three daughters, then ages 9, 12 and 16. Today the daughters, Lona Pete Hutcherson Williams, Margaret Hutcherson Reed and Joy Hutcherson West, all remain residents of Columbus.
"It was a nightmare time," says Lona Hutcherson Southerland, who remarried in 1971 to Dan Southerland Jr. "Time heals, but things are never the same."
Flight 22 would go down in history as the first major catastrophic jetliner accident. As such, systems were not yet in place by airlines to deal effectively with such a large-scale tragedy. The accident had shocked the people of Hendersonville, N.C., and the world and crippled the airline.
But eventually, the headlines about the crash were replaced again with Vietnam war news, and most of the people began to recover. Some began to forget.
Soon, Southerland now says, it seemed like there was a rash of big plane crashes for a long time. Each one was a reminder for Hutcherson's young widow.
Time went on. A few years later, Betty Clyde Hutchinson married a Columbus widower named Chester Jones. He was a father of four young children, and the couple happily melded the two families into a large, real-life version of The Brady Bunch.
Some 35 years after the crash, freelance writer and aviation buff, Paul Houle of Spartanburg, S.C., stumbled across accounts of the Flight 22 accident and decided to research the tragedy. The project soon consumed his interest, as he located and interviewed eyewitnesses and survivors.
Eventually, he wrote an article that was purchased by a western North Carolina newspaper, the Asheville Citizen Times. It ran on the 35th anniversary of the crash.
It was on the 30-mile route from Hendersonville to his home in Spartanburg that he made a realization that finally brought action.
"As I was driving home, I saw a white cross on the side of the road," Houle said in a recent telephone interview. "I realized that 82 people had died in that plane crash and there was no marker, no monument, no memorial."
Houle set to rectify that past oversight.
This year, on Saturday, July 17 now 37 years later dedication ceremonies will be held in Hendersonville for a monument, a memorial listing the names of all who died.
Houle contacted Hendersonville city and county officials and garnered support the project, then solicited donations from local residents who remembered the crash. The now-completed monument's dedication will come with a memorial service for survivors of Flight 22 victims.
A massive 10-ton boulder with a large bronze plaque featuring the Flight 22 passenger list, the monument is located about 300 yards from the spot where the two planes hit the ground.
The city plans to hold the service around noon, the time of day when the accident happened.
Houle hopes the public dedication will help to heal some old wounds, resulting from the crash. Some residents had kept photos and - newspaper clippings - about the event.
"After it happened, a lot of people didn't want to talk about it," Houle said. "It was a horrific event to happen in Hendersonville, right at noon."
The media coverage of Flight 22 was instrumental in establishment of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates the issues behind crashes and remains active today.
At the time, Piedmont was the first to get into flying the big 727 Boeing jets, and they had only been flying them two months, Houle said.
"They didn't realize they weren't equipped to deal with those huge jet planes," he said.
It was 1967. There were no such things as support groups, Houle said.
"There were people who were never able to talk about it. I've talked to other people who went through the same thing. They need this memorial. It is time," he said.
Many Columbus residents still remember the crash, and still wince at the loss.
Says Jones, "I think this is a nice gesture, to have this memorial. I had closure with this thing a long time ago, but I still think its nice."
On the Net:
Flight 22 Memorial: