Historic plaque dedication to honor crew

B-52 Orlando crash honored Saturday

ORLANDO, Fla. – A plaque honoring the crew of a B-52 Bomber that crashed in 1972 was dedicated in Conway Saturday morning.

Saturday commemorated the 40th anniversary of the crash, considered the worst plane crash in Central Florida history.

The idea for the plaque rose out of a series of discussions among members of the Conway Community Orlando Facebook group about two months ago.

The group then contacted Orange County Commission Jennifer Thompson who secured funding for the sign and the necessary permitting.
The ceremony happened at the corner of Conway Road and Merryweather Drive, where the crash happened.

The plaque reads:
At 11:20 a.m. on March 31, 1972, a 306th Bombardment Wing B-52D Stratofortress bomber stationed at nearby McCoy Air Force Base (now Orlando International Airport) crashed on this site. The plane, which was not carrying any... weapons, had left McCoy minutes earlier and was headed north for a mock bombing exercise over Statesboro, Ga. when the aircraft sustained multiple engine failures and an engine fire. The crew was attempting to return to McCoy for an emergency landing when the aircraft crashed 3,220 feet short of the runway. The crash carved a 150-foot crater in the ground and about 40,000 gallons of fuel ignited and burned much of a two-block area in the residential area adjacent to this site. The crash killed seven Air Force crewmen, including pilot Capt. Wendell W. Campbell, 30, co-pilot Capt. Barry E. Applebee, 26, radar-bombadier Maj. James J. Hammons, 37, navigator 1st. Lt. Robert Heatherly,26, electronic warfare officer Maj. William E. Kesler, 41, gunner M. Sgt. Allen H. Murray, 53, and instructor-navigator Lt. Col. George M. Gamache, 42. Eight civilians on the ground were injured, including 10-year-old Anthony Ellington, who was playing in a nearby field. Ellington died three days later in a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas, 80 percent of his body covered with burns. The accident remains the worst plane crash in Central Florida history.