Rey Barry on the Crash of Flight 349

October 30, 1959 was the night of the grand opening of Barracks Road Shopping Center, as well as a football game at Albemarle High School. It was overcast and chilly. It was also the night that Piedmont AirlinesFairchild F-27 crashed north of Free Union, on Buck’s Elbow. Twenty-two year old WCHV reporter Rey Barry was covering the football game that night, and when he heard about a missing plane, he headed out to cover it. He joined the search for the crash for the next 36 hours and, while scrambling up a hill, he discovered a field of two dozen bodies and the sole survivor, still strapped into his seat.

The story is legendary, but this is the first time I’ve heard that Rey had anything to do with it. On Coy Barefoot’s “Charlottesville Right Now” yesterday, Rey related the story of his experience in a lengthy monologue, and the audio is available from the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. Don’t miss this.

6 thoughts on “Rey Barry on the Crash of Flight 349”

  1. Here’s a photo of the crash site as it appeared in February 2002, with what’s left of the plane hull after four decades of people and the elements carrying off bits.

    The Crozet branch of the library has a copy of Phil Bradley’s book about surviving the crash; it contains copies of newspaper clippings and the FAA report on the crash, plus Bradley’s narrative of revisiting the site 40 years later.

    (Caveat: the directions in that book for reaching the crash site (A) are impossible to follow, and (B) predate real estate development that has cut off reasonable access to the site.)

  2. Was it a DC 3 or a Fairchild? The cover of the book shows a completely different plane than the F27 that crashed. Piedmont operated both.

    Very cool info here, though. I was glad to see recent shot of the accident scene.

  3. It was a DC-3, actually.

    As a P.S., one of the spookiest hiking experiences I’ve ever had was coming upon the remains of a small-plane wreckage a couple of decades ago. I was doing an off-trail hike up the west side of Cuyamaca Peak in San Diego County, a steep but non-technical climb. As I got close to the top I saw above me a bright, shiny field of white that at first looked like a patch of snow, but it was way too late in the season for snow to be there. Eventually I got close enough to see that it was a small single-engine plane that had obviously crashed there. It looked like a brand-new crash; as I approached I could see flight manuals and other stuff strewn around nearby. I girded up for the chance there’d be a body inside, but the cabin was empty. After getting home I phoned the Forest Service, and learned that the crash had occurred a few months earlier, killing the pilot, no one else aboard. Because of the difficulty of the terrain there had been no salvage attempt beyond removing the pilot and his personal effects.

    It’s probably the exception rather than the rule to remove even small planes that crash in mountainous terrain, given the high cost of salvage.

  4. I wonder if the Henson Airlines plane that crashed in the mountains over near Shenandoah Valley Regional is still there?

  5. In September 1985, I was the Incident Commander for the first search and rescue ground team that arrived at the Henson Airlines Flight 1517 crash. Rescuers initially reached the site via helicopter, but my team from the Appalachian Search & Rescue Conference was the first to reach the site via the ground after dark the day of the crash. Our ground team was sent in to account for all passengers (there was initial uncertainty about the possibility of survivors) and to evacuate them off the mountain. Fourteen people, including two crew members were killed.

    We spent the night at the crash site until additional rescue teams arrived in the morning for the evacuation. I have vivid memories of hiking up that mountain in the dark and finding pieces of the plane in the woods. We had to constantly put out small fires throughout the night. In the monring we saw there was a long swath of trees clipped by the plane as it hit the mountain too.

    I checked the photos linked above of the Piedmont crash and I can tell you there was nothing that size left of the Henson Beechcraft. I was a nineteen year-old UVA student at the time (taking time off from school waiting tables and doing volunteer search and rescue). We didn’t have GPS units or cell phones back then and any search like this was a challenging adventure. It was also quite a tragedy and I often think of the families that lost loved ones in the accident. Brian Wheeler

  6. I was at the scene of the ValuJet crash just a day after it happened.

    It was something I never hope to experience again.

    The largest piece of wreckage I saw was about three by three feet.

    I still like to fly but that provided me with food for thought every time I climb on an airplane.

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