I was on-site of a crash of a F106B Delta Dart Jet, in Middle River Wisconsin on Sunday March 1, 1964.
Middle River really doesn’t exist, it is just that Middle River crosses Highway 53 there.
I lived a quarter of a mile from the river. We went to the river often to swim, especially interesting when we had Lampreys there.
On Sunday, March 1, 1964, about 2PM, I was on the phone talking to a girlfriend from Superior. We had party lines in those days, where we shared a phone line with other people. Generally, we would lift the receiver up and listen. If no one was on the line, we would proceed to make our call. Sometimes, someone would interrupt your conversation, and ask you to hang up so they could use the phone. We were not supposed to listen to someone else.
We were the Touve family, we had neighbors who included Moller, Lidell, Longren, and Nordlund.
While I was a 17 year old boy trying to get a date, I was on the phone when someone came on the line and yelled “Get off the line, I need to report an emergency!” So, I got off the phone and hung up. Then I decided to listen in on the conversation. The lady said “There has been a crash of an airplane at Middle River!”
Since I live at Middle River, I looked out the window, and saw a really big cloud of black smoke. I was in the Photo Club at Northwestern High School, so I had some cameras. I grabbed my video camera, and ran down the road to the river.
When I got there at the neighbors house, the traffic had stopped, and the pilot was laying on the pavement, on his back, at the bridge where the river crosses Hwy 53. He was still alive, but his stomach had been ripped open, and it did not look like he would make it. It looked like the seat belt had damaged his stomach.
The airplane was obviously a F106 Delta Dart. I have been an aircraft expert all my life, and had models of the F-102 and the F-106, so I knew it was an F-106. There was an enormous ball of fire where the airplane sat on the ground. I could see the jet engine, but most of the airplane was gone. And burning furiously. There was a giant cloud of smoke coming from the airplane.
I used my video camera to take a lot of really nice pictures of the burning airplane.
The house had been hit, and had exploded. The whole house was gone.
After about 10 minutes, I went back to the pilot who was still laying on the pavement, but it was obvious that he had died, and someone from the Air Force had covered his body. He was Captain Kenneth C. Hite.
About this time, I saw that there were other neighbors there taking pictures, and an Air Force guy was confiscating their cameras. I hid my camera in my jacket, and when he asked me if I was taking any pictures, I said no.
I stayed there for a while.
Where Middle River crosses Hwy 53, the road dips down, then goes up again. The Nordlund House was built on a steep slope, so the uphill side of the basement was basically level with the top of the slope. The other side of the basement was at the bottom of the slope. The jet hit the house at the top side of the slope, and left an indentation on the dirt only about 8 inches wide, and 2 inches deep, so the house just exploded apart and was gone. The jet was sitting at the bottom of the basement, just past the house, so it hit the house dead-on. The whole house was gone, including the exposed portion of the basement. The only thing left of the house was that portion of the basement which was below the dirt line, and a wooden staircase which led from the first floor to the basement. It was obvious that if anyone was in the house, they would be killed.
But, in actuality, the lady was in the basement was washing her clothes, when the jet hit and the house exploded around her, and was gone. But she had been on the “protected side” of the basement, and had injuries, but she survived. I cannot imagine what it was like to be washing your clothes in the dark basement, when the whole house would be gone in an instant, and you could immediately see sky. She was still alive, so she saw it happen around her. She had a broken leg, but was taken to the hospital, where she recovered.
It looks like what happened, according to the Air Force guy, was that the jet was coming from Duluth, and had a flameout. The pilot Captain Hite turned the jet into a neighbor’s bare field, and it hit, but then jumped up into the air, and became airborne again. The passenger, Col Earl L. Bastion, had ejected, and suffered some injuries, but was basically all right. But Captain Hite stayed with the plane. It was airborne, and came down again, headed right for the Nordlund house. The husband, Lawrence Nordlund, our neighbor, was out in the yard, said he looked up, and saw the plane headed right for him. He said he had to lay down on the ground to avoid being hit. It probably missed him by about 2 feet. After the plane hit, he thought that Julieann had not made it, but she was screaming from the bombed-out basement. He went and got her out of the basement, and she had burns and a broken leg.
When I got there, he had taken her to the hospital in Superior. So luckily (I guess) they both survived, and they got as close to the crash of a F-106B as you possibly could.
In those days, if we took a video, we would “send it in” to get it developed.
My video was really great. I submitted a clip to the Kodak Movie News, and got a picture printed in their newsletter, which made me very proud.
I still have the 8mm video tape somewhere.
My parents had “gone to town” to Superior, and were coming back home when they saw a huge cloud of black smoke. As they got closer, they were stopped in traffic, but could see that the smoke was coming from near our house. They drove around the side roads to get home. They were relieved when I told them that it was not our house that got hit. But we were only a quarter of a mile away. I think that Captain Hite was trying to come down carefully, and would have landed in our field if he had just a little more altitude.
Posthumously, I would like to thank Captain Hite and his family, for trying so hard to the save the lives of us and our neighbors.
Note: We actually lived in Poplar Wisconsin, the birthplace of Dick Bong, America’s Ace of Aces (40 Japanese planes shot down). I went to school at the Bong Memorial in Poplar. This is the same Dick Bong where the Donald Trump Rally was held, in Superior WI. I wish they would have shown the P-38 that they have on display. If you EVER have the chance, go see that P-38, it is SOOO beautiful !!
Superior, Wis. March 1 (AP) An Air Force jet plane crashed into a house today, killing the pilot and seriously injuring a woman who was alone in her home. Another Air Force man parachuted safely from the plane. Killed was Capt. Kenneth C. Hite, 33, who lived with his wife and three children at the Duluth, Minn., Air Force base. Spokesmen at the Duluth base said Hite ejected from the F106B fighter plane but his parachute apparently did not open. His passenger, the deputy commander of the Duluth base, ejected and suffered only minor injuries. A Douglas County sheriff’s department spokesman said the plane stuck the home of Mrs. Julieann Nordlund, 45, outside Middle River, a little commu
Jet Pilot Dies In House Crash SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP)-Lawrence Nordlund watched in horror Sunday as an Air Force jet fighter sliced through his home where his wife was working in the kitchen. The house and the plane, which crashed in a valley beyond, erupted in flame. Nordlund found his wife, Julieann, 45, in the basement and carried her out before the house was consumed. Capt. Kenneth C. Hite, 33, pilot of the F106B fighter interceptor from nearby Duluth (Minn.) Air Force Base, was killed. His passenger Col Earl L. Bastian, 45, the deputy base commander was burned slightly but parachuted safely. Mrs. Nordlund was in serious condition in a Superior hospital. She suffered fractures and first and second-degree burns. Nordlund was in his yard and was not hurt. Hite and Bastian were on a flight to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Cause of the crash was not known. Hite is a native of Shelbyville, Ky., Bastian of Scranton, Pa,
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