Poland, ME. – September 22, 1978

Poland, Maine – September 22, 1978   

U. S. Navy Photo

     On September 22, 1978, a U. S. Navy P-3 Orion, (Bu. No. 152757), left Brunswick NAS, bound for Trenton, Ontario, Canada, to take part in an air show as a display aircraft.  The aircraft was assigned to Patrol Squadron 8. 

     About ten minutes into the flight, the No. 1. engine broke free and struck the port horizontal stabilizer sheering it off.  Witnesses described the event as an “explosion”.  Debris fell over a wide area in the town of Poland, in some cases narrowly missing some private homes.  

     One witness to the accident told a reporter, “When the plane blew up, there was a big mess of debris and pieces flying all different directions.  It was just an incredible big boom and a huge ball of fire, and then there was fire flying around everywhere.”  

     Another witness who was piloting a private plane about fifteen miles away told reporters, “All of a sudden I saw a big flash in the sky.”

     The Navy later reported that over 75 witnesses were eventually interviewed. 

     Initial reports were that the Orion had been involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft, and some reported seeing parachutes in the air shortly after the explosion, but these reports turned out to be in error.  There were no survivors.

     The cause was later determined to be “whirl mode” of the #1 engine.  “Whirl mode” is a low frequency vibration in the engine mounts that can cause the engine to separate from the air frame.  In this case, the #1 engine separated taking 11 feet of wing with it, which sheared off a portion of the rear stabilizer.   

      The crew were identified as:

     Lt. Cmdr. Francis William Dupont, Jr., 36, a veteran of the Vietnam War.  He’s buried in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in Rome, New York. (www.findagrave.com, Memorial #16581045) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/16581045/francis-william-dupont

     Lt. (Jg.) Donald Edward Merz, 27.  He’s buried in St. Teresa Cemetery in Summit, New Jersey.  (www.findagrave.com, Memorial #92979679) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/92979679/donald-edward-merz

     Lt. (Jg.) George D. Nuttelman 

     Lt. (Jg.) Ernest A. Smith

     AW2 James Allen Piepkorn, 21.  He’s buried in McCall Cemetery in McCall, Idaho. (www.findagrave.com, Memorial #58839202.) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58839202/james-allen-piepkorn

     AWAN Paul G. Schulz, (possibly Schultz), of Santa Rosa, California.

     AD3 Robert Lewis Phillips, Jr., 25.  He’s buried in Sylvania Hills Memorial Park, in Rochester, Penn. (www.findagrave.com, memorial #126103090)  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/126103090/robert-lewis-phillips

     ADC Larry Miller https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/243551578/larry-raymond-miller


     Bangor Daily News, “Missing Plane Debris Found”, April 28, 1978

     Spokane Daily Chronicle, “U.S. Navy Plane Down With 7”, April 27, 1978

     The Eugene Register-Guard, “7 Crewmen Lost In Navy Plane Crash”, April 27, 1978

     Portland Press Herald, “Fiery Crash Of Navy P-3 Takes 8 Lives”, unknown date.

     Portland Press Herald, “Witnesses Saw Huge Fireball In Sky”, unknown date

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Navy Plane Crashes; 4 Bodies Found, 4 In crew Are Missing”, September 23, 1978, page A-3 

     (Lexington, N.C.) The Dispatch, “No Second Plane In Fatal Crash”, September 23, 1978

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Second Plane Sought After Crash In Maine”, September 24, 1978, page B-14

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Eight Die In Crash Of Navy Plane”, September 24, 1978

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Mid-Air Crash Evidence Sought”, September 25, 1978

     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Navy Begins Search For Cause Of Crash”, September 28, 1978

     Lawrence Journal-World, “Navy Fliers Sense Jinx”, September 29, 1978, Pg. 13

     (Utah) The Deseret News, “Navy Fliers Fear Maine Base Jinx”, September 29, 1978

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Puzzling Crashes Have Navy Pilots Wondering”, September 29, 1978, page 21

     (Penn.) The Gettysburg Times, “The Jinx In Brunswick, Maine”, October 5, 1978, Pg. 24.


     The Bridgton News, Plane Crashes East Of Casco, Kills Eight”, September 28, 1978.  


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