Death of pilot proves overwhelming to wife

BY Don McAlvy: Columnist

Editor’s note: This is the second two columns about a plane crash that claimed the lives of two young men from Clovis 50 years ago.

Charley Boyd, operator of Boyd’s Aerial Service in Santa Fe , however persevered, flying up one canyon and down the other at treetop level until he saw the crash site and elevated tail of the plane, which had landed almost squarely upside down. State police first reached the scene of the wreck by foot, and guided in a party of about 16 men including half a dozen troopers and eight Clovis men.

Situated on a 60 degree slope, the spot where the plane struck was difficult to access by foot, and the ground party was unable to reach it until 1 p.m. It was 4:30 p.m. before the bodies of the two young men could be chopped from the crushed cabin and carried 100 yards to a road where a pickup truck had been taken.

The plane was not broken, and the boys had not fastened their safety belts. The gasoline tank had been broken, but about a gallon of fuel still remained in it, despite eight days of evaporation. Asked for a possible explanation of why the plane landed on its back one flier said that the pilot may have tried to snap roll to avoid striking trees, or that he may have been caught in a rainstorm, or downdraft which destroyed his sense of equilibrium, preventing his realizing the position of his plane.

Veteran pilots who were engaged in the search, which involved at least 100 planes at one time or another during the week, said that it is remarkable that no other accidents of a serious nature occurred during the course of the intensive flying.

An inquest was held Sunday afternoon at the scene under the direction of State Police Chief Hubert Beasley, who led the ground party in to the wreckage. An acting coroner from Eagle Nest conducted the inquest.

Three times during the week, twice Saturday, planes and ground parties concentrated their efforts on the basis of false reports that the plane had been found. In each instance however, the wreckage located proved to be that of planes that had crashed months ago

In Clovis, services were held for Jimmie Gressett and John Hardisty. The First Baptist Church was filled to overflowing Wednesday afternoon for the double funeral. Rites were held by B. P. Maddox, pastor of the First Baptist Church, and the Rev. M. C. Cuthbertson, pastor of the Central Church of Christ in Amarillo.

The two young men were buried side by side in the Clovis cemetery. Mrs. Jimmie Gressett, who was hospitalized Sunday, was able to attend the funeral, but Mrs. John Hardisty, who also collapsed after the long strain of awaiting news of her husband, still was too ill to leave the hospital.

(My thanks to Clovis-Carver Public Librarian Marilyn Belcher for locating this tragic story which I had lost years ago.)