P-51 Pilot Killed in Tazewell Crash
Bristol Herald Courier
Monday, March 22, 1954
Tazewell, Virginia: The wreckage of a mission F-51 fighter plane, the body of its pilot slumped in the cockpit, was found this afternoon in the rugged mountain country about seven miles south east of here.
State Police said papers found on the burned body carried the name of Robert Smith. Earlier, the Air National Guard at Charlotte, North Carolina, had reported that a Lt. R. B. Smith of Lansing, Michigan, had been piloting the craft when it disappeared Friday on a flight from Battle Creek, Michigan to Charlotte, NC.
Lt. Smith’s family in Lansing was notified of the crash. A World War II flier, he was in the insurance business with his father. He was 32, married and had not children.
The plane, object of intensive search by aircraft from Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, had crashed into towering Chestnut Ridge in the Burke’s Garden section of mountainous Tazewell County.
The plane had careened through the treetops for about 200 yards before finally crashing about 100 feet from the top of the ridge.
When last heard from, the pilot had made a routine radio report to Charleston, West Virginia on Friday. He failed to report at his next point, Pulaski, Virginia.
The wreckage was spotted today by Capt. Lyle M. Carter, a member of the Charleston ANG Squadron.
Officials at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, will make an investigation of the crash in an effort to determine its cause.