C-130 crash anniversary Tuesday - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

C-130 crash anniversary Tuesday

Reporter: Kim Dacey
New Media Producer: Rachel Chambliss

Update, Tue 6:15 pm:  It was 15 years ago Tuesday when a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 crashed in Evansville. Sixteen people were killed.

Among those killed was 22-year-old Charles Bergwitz. Bergwitz was attending a work conference at the Drury Inn on Highway 41. Kim Dacey talked to his mother, Brenda, Tuesday.  

Charlie Bergwitz was attending a conference in room 416, 15 years ago Tuesday morning, when the plane crashed between the hotel and JoJo's restaurant. His mother, Brenda Bergwitz, reflects on that morning. "There's not a day that goes by that we don't think of him."

Brenda still thinks about the day she lost her son, Charlie. He was in a room on the top floor of the Drury Inn when the C-130 crashed in the hotel courtyard. Brenda heard about the crash at work.  "Immediately, I heard a voice saying, 'Brenda, I've called him home.' I just got up and went into the bathroom, and I prayed and thanked God again for Charlie, for me and my husband and family, and I asked for peace and courage."

It's that faith, Brenda says, that's brought her, her husband and four other children through this tragedy. "It has brought us all closer and made us realize that none of us is guaranteed a tomorrow. And we live today, and praise God for every minute that we do have."

They remember Charlie as the fun loving guy with tons of friends.  A former sailor, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, going to school part time at the Univesity of Southern Indiana, and also working when he died.

Brenda hopes his memory will remind others to always tell family and friends 'I love you' because you never know what will happen next. "When he hugged me that night before he went to bed, and I went to bed not realizing that that was going to be the last I love you."

Charlie's fraternity at USI has set up a scholarship fund in his name. For more information or to make a donation, you can visit Phi Delta Theta Web site.

Update, Tue 4 pm: It was 15 years ago Tuesday when a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 crashed in Evansville. Sixteen people were killed.

The C-130, practicing touch and go landings at Evansville Regional Airport, crashed in the courtyard of the Drury Inn on Highway 41 at Lynch Road. The fire swept through the hotel and the adjoining restaurant, JoJo's.

Federal investigators say the pilot didn't maintain enough speed to stay airborne. The five onboard the C-130 were killed, along with two employees at JoJo's and nine people in a conference room at the Drury Inn.

For the first responders, the family of those killed, and the survivors, that was a day that will never be forgotten. Kim Dacey spoke with one of the first responders Tuesday.

Police officer Dan Carlile was off duty that day but lived just a few miles from ground zero. When he heard the crash, he walked his way to the scene. "A tremendous explosion; it rocked the house. The hotel and restaurant were burning; the plume of smoke, black dark smoke, over it."

Carlile is haunted by the images he saw at the Drury Inn and JoJo's restaurant 15 years ago. He and his partner, Duke Gibson, rushed into the burning hotel, wheeling a gurney upstairs. "We got to right here, and as we were here, the gurney dropped on his end, and I asked him if he was ok. And he said, no, he couldn't go on anymore."

Gibson was taken to the hospital where he died two weeks later of smoke inhalation. "It's tough to remember that... To me, he gave it all here for the sake of other people."

But Carlile kept going up the stairs with other first responders, their faces wrapped in wet towels, to the top floor. "Fire alarms were all going off, loud screaming and screeching. [We] began to beat on the other doors, had to use our feet to kick the doors open... Firefighters were using their axes to wedge in the doors, thinking that people may have been in their rooms overcome by smoke."

Carlile and the crews found no one until they came to room 416. Now, a storage closet. Behind the door, they found nine men dead in a gruesome scene. "The door was partially opened, and it was obvious there was an attempt for them to escape from the room."

A scene that's hard for Carlile to shake in his mind - even 15 years later. "It's the first time I've been back here since the crash. It's amazing, even the passage of time, how it just kinda all comes right back and how clear it becomes."

And remembering that day brings to mind the rescuers who risked their lives. "I just hope and pray that we never have disasters like this again."

Carlile says this is a good time for Tri-Staters to remember the sacrifices our first responders make on the job every day like his partner, Duke Gibson, who gave his life.

Previously: It's a day of remembrance for families and victims of a crash that killed 16 people 15 years ago Tuesday in Evansville.  

A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 crashed just short of the Evansville airport, slamming into the Drury Inn and JoJo's restaurant around 9:50 in the morning. The pilot had been practicing touch and go landings when the plane lost control.

There are no special observances scheduled, but everyone who lived here in 1992 likely remembers where they were when the crash happened. Lawyers for the federal government say the pilot of the plane failed to maintain enough airspeed and that caused the plane to go down.

Evansville attorney Robert John says the Air Force paid over $36 million in claims from the crash.

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