Local News

Witnesses, survivor gather to remember B-52 crash

Posted February 8, 2011 10:54 p.m. EST

— Eyewitnesses, firefighters and a survivor of a 1961 crash in Wayne County involving a plane equipped with nuclear weapons gathered Tuesday to remember the day.

"No one knew what was happening outside," said Adam Mattocks, who was among the Air Force crew members in the B-52 plane. 

At the time, the plane was carrying two nuclear weapons, each one containing more than 200 times the power of the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Military officials have since said the weapons came close to detonating during the crash.

In flight, the fuel tank burst and a wing fell off. The plane went down in a Pikeville field outside of Goldsboro. 

Billy Reeves, who was 18-year-old then, remembers the seeing a fireball in the sky and hearing a loud noise. 

Later, Reeves found three out of eight crew members did not survive. He also remembers the exhaustive search by the Air Force. 

The military later admitted they could not find one of the nuclear bombs the plane had carried.

"It is still in the field buried in the ground," Reeves said at the gathering on Tuesday. 

The field was a swamp when the plane crashed. Many residents believe the bomb sank deep into the earth and remains there. 

The crash happened so long ago, many residents said they are are not afraid the bomb will explode. Reeves said some are worried nuclear material might one day affect ground water.