Thursday, March 10, 2011

Oct.1973 Helicopter Crash,Nemacolin,Pa

Early October,1973 was an interesting time in Greene County,Pa.Two days after 8 year old Debbie Makel's body was discovered near Pumpkin Run creek in Rices Landing another life would be lost in nearby Nemacolin,Pa.
According to the NTSB archive,at 18:15 hours (6:15 pm)on Tuesday,Oct 9th,1973, a Sikorsky S-55B (similar to the one pictured here) crashed on the banks of the Monongahela River just near Buckeye Coal Company's Nemacolin Mine.Records show that the helicopter left Waynesburg enroute to Nemacolin and seems to have misjudged the landing area,striking a pier below the mine.The helicopter burst into flames and was destroyed.The pilot,whos name is unknown at this writing,was killed.Two passengers,Frank Sundquist and James McGreavy,electral contractors from Mentor,Ohio were treated at Uniontown Hospital.

The Observer-Reporter article states the chopper was headed to Dilworth Mine in Rices Landing,just up the river.
I've heard vauge tales of the "helicopter in the river" but didn't really know the story or if it was even true...until today.
While heading to the former Nemacolin ferry landing,we met a few guys cutting firewood and stopped to b.s. a bit.When we told them about our blog,the one guy said "Wanna see a helicopter crash site?" F%#K yes!!! I knew instantly what he was talking about!We snapped a few shots at the ferry landing,then beat feet to the crash site.
Not to sound morbid,but crash have always facinated me.To discover the story I heard was true was cool...but to see it!! Oh yea..
Well...upon arriving at the site,expecting to see the remains of the helicopter engine which lay buried in the hillside for 37 years, we were disapointed.The engine was gone! Fresh ATV tracks and some recently cut limbs were all we first.
After speculating on which local scrappers hauled out the copter pieces,we headed back up the trail.The other guy,Henry, spotted a few pieces the scrappers dropped.Now,I don't know the etiqutte behind removing items from a crash site,especially where someone died,but I grabbed them up.I figured it would be better for me to save the parts and tell the story than have them scrapped for a few bucks or thrown in the river by kids.
I am,by no means,an expert on helicopters,but the pieces are most certainaly from the aircraft.Even after 35+ years on the riverbank the nuts and grease fittings are intact and the joints still move.Anyone who has more info on what the parts were,please comment or email us here at the blog.The NTSB documents list the aircraft an a 1952 Sikorsky S55-B.I'm going to keep asking my Nemacolin gang about what they remember.Jerome,the fellow who led us to the site,has pictures of the engine on his cell phone,which I will try to get.So stay tuned for updates to this post.If you remember the crash,please contact us at swpare@gmail


  1. Great post! Yeah, I would have picked up the parts too. When I was a kid I found an old wooden propeller across the river in Axelton. I am guessing it was part of the ventilation system for the coal mine near Liggett Spring and Axle. It was about 6 feet long if I recall correctly. My mom would have made me throw it away but I always wish I kept it.

  2. Hey, keep up the good work. I've been enjoying all the new posts and the new theme looks great! You've got me motivated to get posting on my blog again.

  3. Thanks Dan! We are having fun w/ this, and it's nice people enjoy it.

    1. .....I remember that helicopter crash made a circle around nemacolin then BANG ! ! crashed ......I walked down to the river and saw debris in was dark....maybe around 9 pm or so........

  4. the way....keep up the good work ! ! ! .....thank goodness somebody is interested in the industrial history of our region.....don't you sometimes feel like Indiana Jones exploring the pyramids ? ? ? .....

  5. Parts look to be from the mechanism that adjusts the pitch of the rotor blades.

  6. I am not doubting anyone's knowledge, but I wanted to share some info that I found on this crash. According to Air Safety Network, the registration of this Sikorsky was N414A, according to them the helicopter was repaired after this accident, only to be written off in an accident in 1987. The FAA database indeed shows an S55 with the same serial number, and registration number being issued an A/W certificate in 1985. That may explain why you found very little evidence of the crash. They list the date in '73, and the one fatality, with 3 occupants. Again, I am uncertain if the info I found is accurate, but just wanted to share. Love this blog, and as a former resident of Western PA, I love that you guys capture the history that you do. I grew up during the strip mining era, draglines, coal trucks, destroyed roads, part of me misses those days. Thanks fr what you share.