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Army honors heroes, survivors of Green Ramp accident

Posted March 24, 2014

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— On Monday, 20 years after a tragic accident claimed the lives of 24 members of the 82nd Airborne Division, survivors, families and the military met to remember, to mourn and to honor the heroism that kept the loss of life from being much greater.

A wreath was posted in front of a crowd of survivors. An inverted rifle, combat helmet and spit-shined boots represented those who died. One by one, their names were called. 

Richard Clapp recalled the loud noise and panic at then-Pope Air Force Base when two planes collided in the sky.  

"I turned around and saw just a huge fireball. And it's just something you don't see every day," Clapp said. "I remember thinking, 'What the hell was that?' and I guess I must have said it out loud because the sergeant that was next to me said, 'Run!' That was the only thing he said."

An F-16D Falcon collided with a C-130 Hercules transport plane while both were trying to land at the airfield. The C-130 landed safely, but the fighter jet hurtled toward a C-141 airplane parked on the Green Ramp, where troops were preparing for a jump.

Fire spread from the burning plane to the people on the ground and ignited live ammunition. The accident, which injured more than 80, is considered the largest loss of life for the division during peacetime since the end of World War II.

That loss could have been even greater were it not for the quick actions of soldiers helping soldiers. Sgt. Daniel Price jumped on a burning soldier and saved her life, but lost his.

Those who were less injured aided their fellows.  

"I had a best friend at the time. He lost his leg with a round. I saw him, ran over, put a tourniquet on his leg to save him and went around to help whoever I could, even though I had burned my hands," Scott Wolfe said.

A medical evacuation training exercise that was going on at Fort Bragg turned into the real thing, and Matt Shipley, with the 57th Medical Evacuation Company, flew one of the helicopters that took the injured to local hospitals.

"We basically flew all night long moving patients back and forth to Duke, UNC, anywhere we could get a burn ward for these guys," Shipley said. 

Among the survivors honored Monday was Lt. Col. Judson Nelson. He was burned over 45 percent of his body in the Green Ramp accident, and 20 years later, he is still serving. He is commander of the Wounded Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Bragg.

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