Ellsworth AFB, SD
29 May 1986
Air Force Investigates Helicopter Crash
May. 30, 1986 5:17 PM ET
STURGIS, S.D. (AP) _ The Air Force on Friday convened a special board of officers from the Strategic Air Command to investigate the crash of a UH-1 Huey helicopter that killed five people and critically injured a sixth.
The helicopter, which was providing security for a missile maintenance convoy, crashed shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday in a field northwest of Bear Butte, about five miles northeast of Sturgis.
Killed were the pilot, Capt. Brian H. Snider, 29, New Palestine, Ind.; and the co-pilot, 2nd Lt. David H. Gordon, 25, Auburn, Wash., both assigned to Detachment 2, 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.
Three men assigned to the 45th Missile Security Squadron also were killed: Senior Airman Donald Heitkamp, 23, St. Henry, Ohio; Airman 1st Class Berry P. Holmes, 21, Miami; and Staff Sgt. Charles L. Huskey, 23, Chatsworth, Ga.
Airman 1st Class Latania Huguley, 22, of Salem, Ala., was the lone survivor. Ms. Huguley, a missile security specialist, was listed in critical condition Friday in Rapid City Regional Hospital with undisclosed injuries.
Heitkamp, Holmes, Huskey and Ms. Huguley worked as security police for the 45th Missile Security Squadron.
”The helicopter was providing security for missile maintenance activity,” said an Air Force spokesman from Ellsworth Air Force Base. ”We can neither confirm nor deny the presence of any nuclear weapons. That’s Air Force policy.”
It’s normal to provide such security, the spokesman said, adding that the Air Force does not discuss specifics of its Minuteman missile system.
The Strategic Air Command will investigate the accident because the helicopter is a Military Airlift Command aircraft, the spokesman said.
The convoy included two security police vehicles followed by a semi-tractor trailer hauling a white box. Another security police vehicle followed. The convoy was not damaged.
Dave Heaton, who reached the scene with his son shortly after the crash, said the helicopter was in flames and bodies were strewn through the wreckage.
”My boy was outside working with a cutting torch, and he heard it (explosion) over the cutting torch,” said Heaton, a well-driller who lives about a mile west of the site.
Tracey Heaton ran inside to tell his father. ”And then we saw the smoke, the diesel fuel or the jet fuel, just burning black,” Heaton said.
Heaton said he saw a woman’s body. ”As far as I know, she was thrown out, I would say at the front of the helicopter.”
The last crash involving an Ellsworth AFB helicopter was on Sept. 1, 1982, 11 miles north of New Underwood. The pilot was killed, and two people were injured.