Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wichita State Shockers also know the pain

       There’s only one college in America that can truly empathize with Marshall University’s pain and angst of 1970—Wichita State University in Kansas.
       The Marshall plane crash is well-documented. But what many folks may not remember is that six weeks before the MU tragedy, Wichita State’s football team met a similar fate.
The Wichita State plane crash occurred on October 2, 1970.
       On Friday, October 2 of that year, the Shockers were en route by plane for a road game against Utah State University. But around 1:15 that afternoon, one of the team’s two planes crashed into a mountain near Silver Plume, Colorado. Twenty-nine of the 36 passengers on that plane were killed. Later on, two others died from their crash injuries while under medical care.
       The second plane flew a different route to its Logan, Utah destination and landed safely. It was determined that pilot error was the cause of the crash. According to reports, the plane that crashed got trapped in a box canyon and was unable to ascend high enough to clear the mountain ridges surrounding it on three sides. To make matters worse, there was not enough room for the plane to do a reverse turn that would enable the aircraft to escape danger.
       Saturday’s game was canceled. Utah State’s football team held a memorial service at the stadium where the game was to have been played. In the meantime, Wichita State officials and the families of the survivors were flown to Denver on a plane made available by the Governor of Kansas.
       The two schools have never played each other in football again. As part of a cost-cutting measure, Wichita State dropped varsity football after the 1986 season.
       Wichita State built a memorial for the crash victims, which is known as Memorial '70. Every year on October 2 at 9 a.m., a wreath is placed at this memorial. There’s also a roadside memorial plaque listing the names of the victims, which is located near the Colorado crash site.
       Bill Cosby and Monty Hall hosted a fundraiser for the Wichita State and Marshall athletic departments after the crashes, from Wichita.

      Want to know more? Click here to read an Associated Press news article published around the time of the 40th anniversary of the Wichita State crash.

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