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MEMORIAL '70

Reflections: former WSU faculty and staff

Gary Thompson

The news of the crash hit the then Shocker basketball coach especially hard.  Tom Reeves, who died from severe burns in a Denver hospital three days after the crash, was the trainer for the football and basketball teams and was one of Thompson's closest friends. 

"I remember the total mayhem and devastation of losing all those people. While his assistants and players stayed behind, Thompson arranged with a friend to be flown to Denver, where he visited Reeves in the hospital that night.  I didn't know how long Tom was going to live.  I didn't know if he would regain consciousness, but I wanted to be there to say something to him if he did."  

Reeves never woke up, and Thompson, who now has homes in California and Nevada, has always questioned his decision to visit the hospital.  He was burned so badly, I almost wish I hadn't seen him.

Lutz, B. (2003, October 2). WSU crash memories still vivid after 33 years.  The Wichita Eagle.


Paul Majelli

WSU's Dean of Fairmount College of Arts and Sciences and his wife, Carolyn, were scheduled to be on the plane that crashed until the night before.  The Majellis stayed home after talking with friends who had been on a WSU football charter flight a couple of weeks earlier and had not enjoyed their experience because of the plane's cramped quarters. "My wife and I had already been talking, and I lamented to her that I wasn't really comfortable flying together.  We didn't have a will or anything, and we had two small kids."  But when Majelli called WSU athletic director Bert Katzenmeyer to back out of the trip, the athletic director wouldn't take no for an answer, calling Majelli three times before finally relenting.  With two open seats, Katezenmeyer invited State Rep. Ray King and his wife, Yvonne, to make the trip.  The Kings, from Hesston, were killed in the crash and left behind seven children.

Lutz, B. (2003, October 2). WSU crash memories still vivid after 33 years.  The Wichita Eagle.


Jim Rhatigan

Then WSU dean of students, Rhatigan flew back from a meeting in Kansas City when he received news of the crash.  He spent much of the next few days on the telephone with relatives who were either grieving or attempting to get information. 

"We set up a command center at the arena, just like a military operation, then for the next 72 hours, I did nothing but go home and catch a little sleep and go back up there and talk to people."

Rhatigan tried to comfort the relatives of victims and answer their questions. "Some people were angry, some were grief-stricken, some were curious.  There were so many different emotions."

Lutz, B. (2003, October 2). WSU crash memories still vivid after 33 years.  The Wichita Eagle.