Westfield, MA. – September 1, 1979

Westfield, Massachusetts – September 1, 1979 


C-123K Cargo Plane
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On September 1, 1979, an Air Force C-123 transport plane was passing over central Massachusetts with a team of army paratroopers aboard.  The flight began at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, at 11:00 a.m., and was to culminate for the paratroopers at the Turner’s Drop Zone at Fort Devens. 

     One of the crewmen aboard was Air Force Master Sergeant Laurent Barbeau, 47, of Pascoag, Rhode Island.   Shortly before 1:00 p.m., as the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet, M/Sgt. Barbeau went to open the side door to the aircraft in preparation for the parachute drop.  As he did so, the door fell away, and M/Sgt. Barbeau fell out of the aircraft with it.  He was wearing a parachute at the time but it didn’t deploy.  His body was recovered in a wooded area near the Little River in the town of Westfield.   

     The door was later recovered for inspection by investigators.  

     M/Sgt. Barbeau was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and had been in the Air Force Reserves for twelve years.   

     M/Sgt. Barbeau is buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Pascoag, R.I.  he was assigned to the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing, a reserve unit based at Westover AFB.


     Springfield Republican, “Airman Falls 5,000 Feet To Death”, September 1979. 

     Springfield Union, “Doorway To Death”, September 12, 1979, (photo of door.)

     The Providence Journal, “Man Falls To Earth While Assisting Paratroopers”, September 3, 1979, page C-2


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