2 die in Navy plane crash

Published 4:15 am Wednesday, May 3, 2000

By By Jon Alverson
Staff Writer
Two Naval officers were killed when their T-34C "Turbo Mentor" crashed into a pasture east of Castleberry around noon Tuesday.
Earline Castleberry heard the muffled crash coming from the field next door to her home on Conecuh County 27 she walked outside to investigate. What she saw next prompted her to run inside and call 911.
An airplane on training exercises from Whiting Field had crashed in the field next to her house.
"I heard a muffled sound and then I went to the door and saw one big fireball," she said. "Then, I came back inside and called 911."
She said the 911 operator asked if a fire truck was needed.
Local firefighters and other emergency personnel from Conecuh County responded instantly to her 911 call, she said. The United States Navy also responded, sending various helicopters, firefighters and other personnel to the scene.
Castleberry heard the crash and called 911, but Ricky Godwin saw the crash happen from a position just north of where the plane slammed into the ground nose first.
"Our mechanic, Ricky Godwin, saw the crash," Castleberry said. "He said the plane was coming across and making a loop and then it just went straight down."
The names of the two officers n an instructor and student pilot n have not been released pending notification of their next-of-kin.
The bodies of the two pilots have been identified. They were found in the wreckage of the plane, according to Cmdr. Jack Papp, Navy spokesperson.
The plane crashed into a field between a pond and a white, farm house on a Conecuh County Road 27 approximately 5 miles east of Castleberry.
The pilots were on a familiarization flight. They were returning to Whiting Field when the plane crashed, according to Papp.
"The planes fly training missions in this area (south Alabama) all the time," Papp said.
The grass in the field surrounding the crash site was burned, and only pieces of the plane resembling a tail section could be seen from the road approximately 500 yards away.
Two Navy Search and Rescue helicopters from NAS Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., landed in the field and one T-34C was circling the crash site during the day Tuesday.
Several fluorescent yellow emergency response vehicles from Whiting Field brought Navy personnel in red hats to comb through the wreckage.
No one other than emergency response agents were allowed in the wreck site.
Papp said T-34C pilots do wear parachutes, but the plane is not equipped with an ejection seat.
The accident is currently under investigation, and Papp said "the investigation will take a long time.
"We want to get the reasons for the crash so we can prevent it in the future," Papp said.
The T-34C from Training Air Wing 5 was assigned to Training Squadron 6 at NAS Whiting Field.

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