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Fort Bragg Tries Again, But Thursday Error Not Tragic

July 3, 1987

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) _ A second drop-zone military exercise failed Thursday, one day after a cargo plane crashed, killing five men and injuring two others before 4,000 spectators.

Military officials defended their decision to go ahead with the exercise.

″It was a question of figuring out how to do it. Our business does not allow us to stand still,″ said Capt. Brian Irving, a spokesman for Pope Air Force Base. ″We recognize that we have to go on.″

The same maneuver that ended with Wednesday’s crash was attempted again as part of a demonstration, but the tank drop was aborted when a parachute failed to open.

The airplanes successfully dropped about 600 paratroopers and dropped lighter equipment, but not a Sheridan tank.

Air Force officials said a parachute that is supposed to pull the tank from the open rear door of the Lockheed C-130 Herculese plane was cut loose after it failed to open. The cargo plane roared past 4,000 fatigue-clad college ROTC cadets in bleachers without dropping the tank.

In Wednesday’s accident, the C-130 skidded off a dirt landing strip and into pine trees, exploding into an orange ball of flames.

The accident occurred as the plane was dropping a 17-ton M-551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance vehicle in a low-altitude parachute extraction system during the annual display of Army and Air Force airborne capability.

In the routine method of getting equipment into a combat area, a transport airplane normally flies about five feet above the ground, a heavy load is dragged out of its rear door by a parachute and the plane ascends.

″The margin for error is very slim″ in a LAPES maneuver,″ said Maj. Chuck Martel, a pilot with the 21st Air Force at McGuire Air Force Base, N.J.

The manuever was battle-tested during the late 1960s and early 1970s on the short dirt runways of Vietnam, said Capt. Brian Irving, Pope Air Force Base spokesman.

Four of six Air Force crewmen on the plane were killed Wednesday, as well as an Army soldier on the ground, said Irving.

The dead were identified as Capt. Garry M. Bardo Jr., 31, the pilot, born in Bloomsburg, Pa.; 1st Lt. John B. Keiser III, 28, the navigator, born at Plattsburg Air Force Base near Clinton, N.Y.; Technical Sgt. Timothy A. Matar, 32, loadmaster, born in Mansura, La.; and Airman 1st Class Albert G. Dunse, 23, born in Savannah, Ga., additional loadmaster.

The Army soldier killed on the ground was identified Thursday as SSgt. Douglas L. Hunter, 25, of Charlotte, Tenn. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor Regiment at Fort Bragg.

The airmen were assigned to 40th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 317th Tactical Airlift Wing, at Pope Air Force Base.

Those injured were 1st Lt. Marc A. Lenke, co-pilot, and Sgt. Tony T. Holmes, flight engineer. Their ages and hometowns were not available.

Lenke and Holmes were admitted to Womack Army Hospital at Fort Bragg, and were transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. They were in stable but serious condition.

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