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MEMORIAL '70

Reflections: survivors

Bob Renner was recorded to have been in the wreckage the longest.  Renner, a 21-year old quarterback, was seated in the back of the plane along with most of the other survivors.  Everyone was thrown forward with the impact of the crash.  Renner's leg was pinned beneath the seats and wreckage and three of his best friends were pinned near him.  After freeing himself, Renner tried to free Randy Kiesau, Don Christian, and Jack Vetter.  But after several attempts, Renner said, Vetter told him, Bobby, I'm burning, get out of here.

McMillen, L. (1990, September 30).  The years drive a wedge between survivors linked by tragedy.  The Wichita Eagle, pp A10, A12.


Rich Stephens, then a 22-year old offensive guard, had gone forward in the plane to ask the pilots about the route just before the crash. 

I got up behind the cockpit area and I could hear some concerned conversation between the pilots. I decided I better head back to my seat and when I turned around, I fell down when we started hitting the trees.  That's the last thing I remember until I woke up outside

Stephens was thrown out of the plane, landing in front of it.  Stephens and co-pilot Ronald Skipper were the only two survivors in the front of the plane.

McMillen, L. (1990, September 30).  The Years drive a wedge between survivors linked by tragedy.  The Wichita Eagle, pp A10, A12.


Gene Kostal, then a 20-year old linebacker from Chicago, remembers the day well. 

It was like if you cut the cord on an elevator.  We dropped that quickly.  Once I came to realization that we had stopped, there was a kind of surrealness about the situation.  All our clothes had been blown off or torn off, and I was buried up to my chest in debris.  I sat there for a minute to observe what was going on.  It was dark and somewhat quiet.  There were rays of light coming in through the cuts in the fuselage.  A couple of trees had fallen in.  I was the last out, and I was getting nervous because I had seen flickers of smoke and fire.  I jumped off the top of the plane to the ground.  Mike (Bruce) and Dave Lewis and Johnny (Taylor) were already there, and Mike started down the hill to get help.  Johnny was burned pretty badly, so Dave and I started to help him down.  As we walked down the hill, a fireball swept through the plane and it exploded.

The Associated Press. (1995, October 3).  WSU team members, students remember fatal 1970 plane crash.  The Southwest Daily Times.


Keith Morrison, one of the nine survivors, had some vivid memories of the moments before the crash as the plane flew up Clear Creek Canyon.

I looked out the window, and it looked like 10 feet below me was the trees.  I remember hitting the trees.  The plane started shaking.  It got dark.   

He remembers slowly waking up, feeling cool air and seeing a pine forest.  Somehow, he ended up about 40 yards away from the aircraft.  Because he had flash burns on his arms, he thinks he was burned aboard the plane upon impact and that he probably crawled out through a hole near the front of the aircraft before it exploded.

Potter, T. (1995, October 3).  Survivor of WSU crash returns, finally feels grief.  The Wichita Eagle, pp D1, D3.


The last thing John Hoheisel remembers before the crash is looking out the window and watching the plane's wing clip off the tops of trees. There were no announcements that we were in trouble that I recall.  We were just down.  I don't think many of the people on the plane knew what was happening.  But I was looking out the window.  I saw those treetops being clipped by the wings of the airplane.  I heard a rumble.  Then, just a few seconds later, it was eerily quiet.

Hoheisel couldn't see because of the smoke, but was able to get out through a hole in the back of the fuselage.  He heard people moaning from inside the plane, but it was engulfed in flames.  A dazed Hoheisel and a few of his teammates were met on the mountain by a construction worker who was helping build the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, below the crash site.

Lutz, B. (2000, October 1).  Living A Miracle.  The Wichita Eagle, pp. A1, A2.


Mike Bruce, the offensive tackle for Wichita State University, was the least injured of the group.  He recalls his teammates admiring the construction activity near the Eisenhower Tunnel before the plane made a rapid plunge.  After the crash had occurred, Bruce hustled down the mountain, hoping to get aid, and ran into a tunnel construction crew.  They returned to help as many as they could.

Whaley, M. (2001, January 29).  Wichita State crash still echoes 1970 accident killed 14 players, 17 others.  The Denver Post, pp. A14.