Plane Crash October 24, 1956

by Carole Scrivner Bearden

I was 11 years old, walking home from 5th grade at Jane Long Elementary with some classmates.  I wish I could remember who was in our group, but it may have been some nearby neighbors like Sherry Traylor, Jo Beth Barkley or Sue Ann Yeargain.  The date was October 24, 1956, a comfortable autumn afternoon, when we heard a huge crash and looked up.  Two planes had collided in the air above the Permian Estates. 
Suddenly airplane parts and body parts began to fall around us!  I dashed home, across Thomason Drive, up Howard Drive, yelling to my sister that their had been an explosion and I was going to look around.  No policemen or fire trucks had arrived yet, but groups of children wondered around the 7 block area.
Later we would learn the military jet, containing an instructor and student pilot, were on a training mission from Webb Air Force Base in Big Spring.  The Cessna carried a father, mother, infant, and parents of the mother.  All 7 passengers died.

There were hunks of metal, insulation, plane seats, luggage, clothes, toys – all sorts of debris on the side walks, drive ways,  streets and vacant lots.  Rumors abounded:  some said one of the pilots went through a power line which severed his head, the head still hanging here with the helmet still attached.  I didn’t see that, but I saw the body of the infant which landed in shrubs, not so badly damaged.  I looked through the wall of the house where the engine of the Cessna landed in the kitchen.  But the most horrendous thing I saw (and will never forget!) was a house where a woman had gone through the roof and landed squarely in the bathtub.  I pictured a giant having vomited and couldn’t quite figure it out till a fellow spectator pointed out her head.  It was then that I realized I probably shouldn’t be there.
The next day at school several students brought things to show.  The tail of the Cessna landed squarely in someone’s backyard.  Another backyard (very near my house) received the ejection seat from the jet.  There were pieces from the instrument panels. Miraculously, the only fire was on Apache St., where the largest piece of the jet landed on the garage; that house burned up.  The other miracle is that not one person on the ground was injured.
My husband Bill remembers hearing about it on the radio, and of course there was multi-page coverage in the Reporter Telegram, but the news story died quickly.  Since this was the 50’s and the Cold War was at its peak, perhaps that was a factor since a military jet was involved.  Or perhaps it was just West Texas stoicism, wherein folks don’t get overly excited about something that’s none of their business!          

9 thoughts on “Plane Crash October 24, 1956

  1. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:12 pm

    Bekki Maier Welch

    Jun 25, 2019

    I remember it well, Carole. I lived on Tanner and Raymond. My brother and Harlan Roberts and maybe some more friends helped hunt for body parts and plane parts. I can’t believe you saw all that. I didn’t want to go near it. Weak stomach. Still do !

  2. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    Nora Peterson Klier, LHS 1963
    Sep 28, 2019

    Carole I knew I remembered a plane crash but when I asked my older sister if she remembered a crash she said that she had no memory of such a thing. Thanks for verifying. I’m not sure where that location was that you mentioned but it must’ve been near my house for me to have remembered it.

  3. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:13 pm

    James Adams
    Sep 29, 2019

    Teddy Bisbee and I were riding our bikes home from Jane Long when we heard the explosion and saw the Cessna falling from the sky. We rode to the neighborhood and saw many of the things that Carole described. We saw the pilot’s helmet hanging from the telephone line but the most horrible thing we saw was a cyclone fence where a body had hit the ground and been thrown into the fence.

  4. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:17 pm

    Suzi Northcutt Griffith
    Sep 29, 2019

    Wow, Carole! Can’t believe you saw this in person. I remember everyone talking about it at school the next day, and that it was a huge news event, but until now have never heard a first hand account. I know it must be indelibly imprinted in your memory. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:18 pm

    Arvol Brown
    Nov 20, 2019

    I was 11 too, and was selling papers on the street then… I had just got my papers and was on the street an hour when Our Boss (many guys may remember) Leroy Stewart came around and pick all us guys up to come get out the NEW EXTRA… I got 50 papers… I was selling at the corner of Wall St. and Main at the Old First National Bank…. Sold all the 50 papers very quickly and went back and go 50 more … Sold all of them by 5:30….. Remember when you lived on Canyon and you were very close at that time to the Falling Debris. Real tragedy for our Midland history…….

  6. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:19 pm

    W Godwin,
    Nov 20, 2019

    I was there selling papers at the same time. I was at the train station, Arvol, I remember we made .50 cents for selling ( 20 ) papers, so that day you were rich. Arvol, I remember the inmates on the top floor of the court house lowering a cup with a nickel in it, I would tie a paper to the string and they would pull it up, One day they lowered it without a nickel in the cup. I sent a paper up. No money ! I told Big Ed, He went up and came down with a quarter, The good old days

  7. Admin February 9, 2020 / 7:19 pm

    Suzi Northcutt Griffith
    Nov 20, 2019


  8. Michael Simmons February 11, 2022 / 3:51 am

    This crash killed my maternal grandparents, Roy & Ethel Howard, aunt & uncle Winfred & Elizabeth Clement & infant cousin Cathy Clement.
    It happened 2yrs before I was born. My mother & oldest brother got news of the crash via KRLD radio in Dallas while cooking supper at our home in Boyd TX.
    As we had no phone at the time, my uncles, 1 in Midland, 1 in Odessa were scrambling trying to contact Wise County Sheriff Department to notify Mother at the same time. Uncle Doyle in Midland had managed to contact Daddy at work in Ft Worth & he was racing home when the news broke.
    As next of kin in Midland/Odessa had been notified, names had been released to the press, so that’s how we learned of it.
    Supper was supposed to be fried eggplant, Mother never made eggplant again. To this day, I have never had eggplant.
    The Clement’s older son, Dickie, had stayed home that trip for school & is the sole survivor of the family.

  9. Wayne Jones August 14, 2023 / 7:34 pm

    I wa there as well and what you have read is all true. Later when I was working in California I met the investigating officer from the air force .

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