Hope Turns to Despair for Families of Missing With PM-Plane Crash, Bjt
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ First, waitress Kaye Durbin recalled, there was an earthquake-like rumbling. Then a fish tank exploded and a ceiling came crashing down as a military transport plane smashed through the JoJo’s restaurant.
″Somebody yelled, ’Everybody get out of here 3/8‴ said Durbin, 29. ″I saw this tank of fish shatter as the ceiling collapsed in on us and heard screaming.″
Within moments, the restaurant and an adjacent Drury Inn motel were engulfed in flames. The crash late Thursday morning killed 16 people, including the plane’s five-member crew, two restaurant employees and nine in a fourth-floor conference room at the motel.
At least 19 were injured, including 10 who were hospitalized. Three people were reported in critical condition.
For hours after the crash, friends and relatives of people reported missing held out hope for their survival.
But when Vanderburgh County Coroner Charles Althaus asked people gathered at a local community center for relatives’ dental records, hope began to fade.
Minutes after Althaus began meeting with relatives at the C. K. Newsome Center, people began filing out in tears.
One woman fell into the arms of another waiting outside. ″He said they were burned beyond recognition,″ she cried.
″In a disaster situation, denials reign supreme,″ said Joseph Kirsch, a volunteer chaplain with the Indiana State Police. ″Most think so-and-so has probably fallen out of a window at the hotel and is wandering around dazed. A family hopes against hope.″
Althaus’ office released most victims’ names today. The victims were the five-man crew of the Kentucky Air National Guard plane, which had been based at the Guard’s 123rd Tactical Airlift Wing in Louisville; nine employees of Plumbing & Industrial Supply of Evansville who were meeting at the hotel; and two restaurant workers missing in the wreckage and presumed dead.
The crew was practicing touch-and-go landings at Evansville Regional Airport when the plane, a C-130 Hercules, nosedived into the hotel and restaurant. The cause of the crash was under investigation.
Among those missing after the crash were nine employees of the Evansville Plumbing and Industrial Supply Co. who were attending a job seminar.
Todd Goens, who consoled a young woman at the community center, said one of his University of Southern Indiana fraternity brothers had been at the seminar.
″How can you take a death?″ he said of the woman’s family. ″They’re taking it hard. They’re taking it rough.″
At the crash site, Lt. Col. David Moremen of the Kentucky Air National Guard, stared at the rubble.
″Inside, I’d like to find a room where I could cry,″ he said.