Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lamar track stars recount deadly plane crash: Beechcraft 65, N968Q

John Fuller awoke to the news of his own death.

Not many knew he had left the Drake Relays a day early, ahead of the rest of the Lamar track team.

"Is this the home of John Fuller?," the voice on the other end of the line asked.

The phone call came at about 2 a.m. on April 28, 1968. It was a Sunday.

"Yes, this is him," Fuller responded.

"No, no. I'm looking for John Fuller, the athlete from Lamar."

"Yes, this is him," Fuller clarified.

The call was intended for his wife, to tell her that her husband had died in a plane crash an hour-and-a-half earlier. Everyone on-board was killed.

Fuller had no idea that five of his teammates and his coach were gone.

"John, they're all dead."

What Could Have Been

Joe Lee Smith had flown with Winston McCall before.

"He was a good pilot," said Smith, Lamar University's sports information director from 1963-89.

According to a National Transportation Safety Board report, McCall, 46, had logged 4,900 hours of flight time.

This wasn't his first time making a round-trip to Beaumont Municipal Airport.

The aircraft that night was a Beechcraft Queen Air 65 with twin propeller engines.

McCall was attempting his initial landing when the plane crashed at 12:15 a.m. in a rice field a mile short of the airport.

A fire started on impact and the ensuing explosion produced a heat so intense that firemen had difficulty approaching the wreckage.

The NTSB lists the cause of the crash as "MISCELLANEOUS-UNDETERMINED."

However, the commonly-accepted theory is that McCall had a heart attack.

Under remarks, the report notes that an autopsy found that McCall had coronary arteriosclerosis, a condition that narrows and blocks arteries to the heart.

Seven people were on the flight: McCall, Lamar track coach Ty Terrell and five student-athletes - Randy Clewis, Don Laune, Waverly Thomas and Beaumont residents Mike Favazza and John Richardson.

The team was returning from the Drake Relays, an annual track meet in Iowa that drew some of the best collegiate track teams from across the country, like the University of Texas and Kansas.

Read more and photo gallery:   http://www.beaumontenterprise.com


NTSB Identification: FTW68A0090
14 CFR Part 91 General Aviation
Aircraft: BEECH 65, registration: N968Q
 FILE    DATE          LOCATION          AIRCRAFT DATA       INJURIES       FLIGHT                        PILOT DATA
                                                               F  S M/N     PURPOSE
3-2404  68/4/28    BEAUMONT,TEX        BEECH 65            CR-  1  0  0  NONCOMMERCIAL             COMMERCIAL, AGE 46, 4900
        TIME - 0015                    N968Q               PX-  6  0  0  PLEASURE/PERSONAL TRANSP  TOTAL HOURS, 40 IN TYPE,
                                       DAMAGE-DESTROYED    OT-  0  0  0                            INSTRUMENT RATED.
        TYPE OF ACCIDENT                                         PHASE OF OPERATION