C-130 Crash of 1970

A C-130 cargo plane flying from Little Rock Air Force Base (LRAFB) in Jacksonville (Pulaski County) caught fire in mid-air and crashed near Piggott (Clay County) on July 30, 1970, killing all six men aboard.

The Air Force C-130 Hercules took off at 3:46 p.m. on July 30, 1970, carrying two men based at LRAFB and four from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas who were deployed to Jacksonville for training. Something went wrong during the routine training flight, and the aircraft crashed about a mile west of Piggott.

A witness said the Hercules was on fire and one wing fell off before it hit the ground. One of the plane’s engines landed in the driveway of a home near the crash site; the homeowner was able to extinguish the burning wreckage with a garden hose.

Killed in the crash were Sergeant Louis P. Belleisle, twenty-one, the radar scanner; Master Sergeant Charles Albert Carver III, thirty-seven, the flight engineer; Major Albert L. Wilkinson, forty-one, the flight instructor pilot; Second Lieutenant Lowell K. West, twenty-five, a student co-pilot; Petty Officer First Class Norman C. Wagenschutz, twenty-eight, a student flight engineer, and Captain Raymond D. Rotella, twenty-eight, a student co-pilot. Two of the men were Arkansas natives: Wilkinson was from Fayetteville (Washington County) and Wagenschutz was from Jacksonville. The others were from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

The air force assembled a board headed by a colonel to investigate the cause of the crash. The Arkansas Gazette reported that “its findings will be made available to other C-130 units, but will not be made public.”

For additional information:
“6 Crewmen Dead in AF Plane Crash West of Piggott.” Arkansas Democrat, July 31, 1970, pp. 1, 2.

“AF Identifies Two Victims in C-130 Crash.” Arkansas Gazette, August 1, 1970, p. 12.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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