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MEMORIAL '70

Reflections: friends of WSU

Having been an 18-year-old freshman with season tickets when the WSU airplanes crashed, I have thought about it from time to time over the last 35 years. A couple of us hiked up to the site of the crash in June of this year. You can see where the plane clipped the trees as it began to crash. It is a beautiful area out there, and when you are up there, you have a real feeling of respect for those young people who lost their lives. It is a spot which causes one to have deep thought about life. The area is about the size of a football field and still has no trees.

September 29, 2005
Greg Records
Wichita, Kansas

View Greg's pictures of the crash site >>


I graduated from Wellston, Ohio High School in 1955. Ben Wilson was the coach in Wellston in 1954. I was an equipment manager. I had a heart problem, rheumatic fever, and could not play football. Ben Wilson was a great influence on all of us. He had a hard work, honesty and never give up attitude. I was in the Army at the time when Wilson came back to Wellston for a visit after going to Wichita State. I was told by one of the former players that Wilson was also there to try to get me to go be the manager of the Wichita State football team. I was told that he thought that I was one of the best. That was an honor for the coach to say that. I was at a Wellston football game when I heard about the airplane crash with the team and coach. There was a long silence at the field that night, and there were tears. We all felt the loss and never forget. God bless you all.

May 15, 2007
Larry Thornton
Clyde Township, Michigan


In 1970, I was a senior at Clear Creek Secondary School in Idaho Springs, Colorado, 17 years of age. A friend of mine and I were standing outside of the school shortly before 3 p.m., and watched as the plane snaked up the canyon. We immediately got in my Dad's car, which I was using for the day, and drove up I-70. We had never seen a plane of that size that low in the canyon, and thought it may be in trouble. From Idaho Springs to the site of the crash is about 20 minutes by car. The crash site was up a fairly steep embankment, well off the freeway, and was actually closer to Hidden Valley Ski Area than Silver Plume. My friend and I could tell where the crash site was because emergency vehicles were beginning to gather. Police would not allow us to climb up to the actual crash site.

The next day, we went back up to the area again, and this time no one stopped us from climbing up the fairly steep incline. We stood and then sat, and then stood again, silently, looking at the still smoking wreckage. It seems very odd to me now that the authorities would allow two high school kids to watch. There were a couple of men in special white suits with gloves and masks looking for victims. At my feet, there was a piece of some kind of cloth that was draped over a round object; I called over one of the men, and said "I think this is a skull." He pulled off the material, and it was. I was overcome with emotion, and my life was suddenly very different. My friend and I left shortly afterwards, and we didn't say a word to each other on the long walk down the mountain, nor did we on the long drive down to Idaho Springs.

Thrity-seven years later (2007), I drove up the Loveland Pass road to an overlook and looked out across the canyon trying to identify the crash site. So many years have passed, either my memory of where it was or the actual crash site are gone. I looked at a spot where I thought it might have been, but there was no way to tell for sure. Even now, 37 years later, I found myself fighting back tears. So many lives were lost and changed.

I am 54 years old now, and if I live to be 100, I will always remember and will always fight back tears. Although belated, I offer my most profound sorrow for those that lost their lives and the families that were so deeply changed that day.

October 4, 2007
Mark A. Stone
El Paso, Texas


I am a younger brother of Lou Tabor Jr., who at the time of the crash was a sophomore linebacker on the football team. I remember that [Friday] as if it were yesterday. I was in my backyard in Niles, Ohio, doing some work on what would later become a basketball court. Ray Sypert [who briefly attended Wichita with my brother] stopped by my home and questioned me as follows: “When was the last time you heard from your brother, Lou”? I replied, to the effect that I had spoken with him perhaps a week or so ago and was aware that the team was playing in Utah on Saturday. Ray hesitated momentarily and then spoke these words, “I just heard on the radio that an airplane carrying the Wichita State University football team has crashed in the Rocky Mountains.” Stunned, whatever Ray said to me after that I didn't comprehend. I immediately stopped what I was doing and ran in the house to tell my mother. When I went to her room to tell her, she told me that she already had heard the news on the radio and told me to call my father, who at the time was at work. My mother also instructed me not to say anything to my two younger brothers who were also home.

I was able to get word to my father that he needed to come home due to an emergency. Upon reaching home, Dad called the university only to receive an [obvious] busy signal. My remaining siblings, a host of family friends and relatives made it to our home and we established a vigil as we watched the television and listened to the radio. The information that was broadcasted on both TV and radio was as Ray Sypert had told me hours earlier; an airplane carrying the Wichita State University football team had crashed in the Rocky Mountains.

During the vigil, our phone rang and my father answered. I don't remember his exact words, but the look on his face said it all as he exclaimed, “Junior!!!, Junior!!!, Junior!!!” Everyone in the house was hugging and joyfully crying. Our prayers had been answered. My brother Lou informed us that the team had taken two planes for the game in Utah. He was on the Black plane that had landed safely in Logan, Utah. As fate would have it, he would have flown on the ill-fated Gold plane, but due to a subpar week of practice, he was demoted to the second team.

Several weeks later, Junior came home [to a hero’s welcome] for a brief period. In the year or so that he remained at Wichita after the tragedy, I and several of my family members had the fortune of meeting some of his teammates whom he invited home, and we also got to see the Shockers play the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in the second season.

As I initially stated, I will remember this tragedy as if it were yesterday. As I peruse some of the information related to the accident, I am left with profound sadness at the tragic loss of so many lives. This should have never happened.

May 29, 2010
Timothy A. Tabor
Harrisburg, Pennsylvannia


To share your reflection, please email Carmen Hytche at carmen.hytche@wichita.edu