UPDATE 10/8/2009: THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY SERVICE WILL BE HELD ON OCT 31, 2009 AT 10AM, MINT SPRING VALLEY PARK CROZET, VA
See The Hook Magazine 10/8/2009 edition for a 50th Anniversary Story on Flight 349.
October 30, 1959 changed the lives of many familes as Piedmont Airlines Flight 349 flew into the side of Bucks Elbow Mountain just west of the town of Crozet, VA. The crew of 3 and 23 of 24 passengers were killed in this crash.
The cause of the accident was determined to be: “A navigational omission which resulted in a lateral course error that was not detected or corrected through precision instrument flying procedures. A contributing factor to the accident may have been the pre-occupation of the captain resulting from mental stress.” – ICAO Circular 64-AN /58 (68-75).
I had found coordinates for this crash site just before the Christmas Holiday and decided to try and find it. The first attempt failed as those coordinates were for the DC3 Memorial that is located in Mint Springs Valley Park. We came home and found a second set of coordinates that looked to be 1.5 miles North-West of the memorial as described in the website that gave us the DC3 Memorial coordinates. Six days later we returned and found the wreck.
This was a tough hike to find the wreck site that I did on 12/31/2008 with a friend and my nephew. The new coordinates were still about 900 feet off but after about 30 mins of scouring the area we finally found it. In fact, there was a trail of orange survey ribbons that led down past the wreckage back to a trail we had been on earlier in our hike. The wing section was the biggest part of the plane that we saw but there were many other parts, some still with the recognizable blue color of Piedmont Airlines.
The story behind the sole survivor, Phil Bradley is quite interesting. He was a WW2 Veteran and received the Bronze Star for his part in the Normandy Invasion. According to waymarking.com, Mr. Bradley was in his seat with serious injuries for about 2 days prior to the first rescuers reaching the site. In 1999 Mr. Bradley dedicated a memorial in honor of those who died in the crash.
I felt privileged to find this crash site and to find out about the life of the sole survivor, definitely a member of “The Greatest Generation”. For additional photos of the crash site visit my webshots site, choose Bucks Elbow Album.