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U.S.A.F. C-47 Crashes at Eielson AFB, September 7, 1951

Arctic & Northern Aviation

Eielson Air Force Base History

    The aircraft that crashed was C-47A serial number 43-48134 from HQSQN of the 5010th ABG.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Saturday, September 8, 1951

C-47 Crashes Near Eielson Base - Fairbanks, 1951

Plane Crashes in Flames Killing Three Of Its Crewmen - Fairbanks, 1951

    Three men were killed and one man miraculously escaped death when a C-47 transport plane crashed about five miles southwest of Eielson base at 10:05 last night.

    The big plane was making practice GCA landings when the tragedy occurred. A guard at one of the Eielson gates, who witnessed the crash, said that the plane burst into flames in the sky and plummeted to earth.

    In less than an hour after the crash, the Tenth Air Rescue Squadron had one helicopter and a search C-47 in the vicinity of the crash. A C-47 search plane from Eielson also took to the air.

    Helicopter Pilot Captain Lewis Erhart, accompanied by Wing Surgeon Lieut. Col. Robert Zerbe, made a daring night flight to the scene lof the crash. The pilot swooped low over the burning wreckage about 12 times, before the survivor was sighted.

    "We Were playing an electric light on the wreckage when suddenly we sighted one man laying on the ground and waving his arms at us," said Captain Erhart.

Landed in Trees

    The helicopter immediately landed, by letting down through thick trees with the aid of the spotlight.

    The crew members found that one man aboard the plane had apparently been hurled free as the aircraft crashed in flames. He was identified as Lieut. Francis J. Parnik, co-pilot of the ill-fated C-47.

    Parnik had suffered both legs broken as he was thrown from the wreckage. However, in spite of the fact that he could scarcely move, the flier had managed to put tourniquets on his legs to stop the flow of blood, and to build a fire of leaves to attract rescuers.

Flown to Eielson

    He was immediately lashed to a litter on the outside of the helicopter and flown to Eielson, where he was treated, and pronounced to be in serious condition. From Eielson he Was flown to Ladd, and then to the air force hospical at Elmendorf air force base, near Anchorage.

    He was conscious when found on the ground, and told rescuers that the plane had broken into flames. He seemed not to know that the others were dead, and apparently, believed they had bailed out. He was on the ground about one hour and 45 minutes awaiting rescue.

    Meanwhile, back at Eielson, a round rescue crew was organized and equipped with bulldozers, jeeps and weasles. Led by Colonel Edward Moore, base commander, the group moved in to the site of the tragedy, and located the three bodies in the wreckage. Later, Colonel Moore returned to the base by helicopter to arrange for the notifying of next of kin of the victims.

Survived by Wife

    At least one man who perished was survived by a wife who lives in this area. Parnik, the survivor, also was married, and his wife accompanied him on the flight to the hospital in Anchorage.

    Officials praised the daring and skill of helicopter pilot Captain Erhart. Flying an aircraft that was not fully equipped for night operations, he managed to make a perfect landing in midst of trees surrounding the wreckage, and pick up the lone survivor.

Bodies Found

    When daylight arrived, the helicopter and other rescue squadron search planes flew low over the crash area, in the hope that some of the crewmen of the ill-fated aircraft might have parachuted to safety, and could be sighted. But when the ground party arrived at the scene, they found that the other three men had perished.

    Names of the two enlisted men and one officer who died in the wreckage were being withheld pending notification of next_of kin. All were stationed at the air base.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Monday, September 10, 1951

C-47 Crashes Near Eielson Base - Fairbanks, 1951

    Three men who died in the flaming wreck of a C-47 last Friday night were identified today by the air force.

    The pilot of the plane was Capt. Donald Severson, of Wheeler, Wis. He is survived by his wife who resides at Fielson air force base. His body is being sent home for burial, accompanied by his wife, and Captain Andrew Roark of the base.

    The second casualty was Technical Sergeant Roy Spletzer, of Newaygo, Mich. He is survived by his wife, Mildred, whose address was listed as Methuen, Mass.

    The third man to die in the crash was Corp. Robert Baker, of Seattle. His next of kin was listed as his mother, who resides at 2703 Belvedere street, in Seattle.

    A fourth man, miraculously escaped death, when he was thrown out of the plane as it crashed. He was Lt. Francis J. Parik, who is now under treatment in the air force hospital near Anchorage. His wife accompanied him on the flight to Elmendorf air force base.

    Lt. Parik listed his home address as Rural Route 4, South Bend, Ind. It was reported that the Pariks came here several months ago, and (have been living in a trailer at Moose Creek lodge.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner - Monday, September 10, 1951

Helicopter Crashes - Fairbanks, 1951

    One helicopter crashed over the week end, and another was reported lost. Two men were killed and one was missing.

    A helicopter from Flight "D" of the Tenth Rescue squadron, crashed late Saturday afternoon, claiming the lives of both crew members. The helicopter crashed on the east side of the Moose Creek bluff, about seven miles north of Eielson air force base.

    The helicopter was on its way to evacuate the bodies of the crew members of the C-47 that crashed in the Eielson area late Friday evening.

    The dead were Capt. Frank A. Alden and Cpl. Joe K. Allen.

    Capt. Alden came to Flight "D" in September 1949 and was due to return to the States on September 16. He was one of the most active members in helicopter operations. He is survived by his wife, Rose, and two children, a daughter, 4 and a son, 6 months, of Ladd air force base.

    Cpl. Allen is survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Allen of Versailles, Ky.

Cause Unknown

    The cause of the crash is unknown but is being investigated by an accident investigation board of Ladd air force base.